Court of Appeals upholds dismissal of UC professor’s COVID vaccination challenge – Orange County Register

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals this week upheld the dismissal of a federal lawsuit brought by a former UC Irvine professor who lost his job after refusing to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

dr Aaron Kheriaty – a former professor of psychiatry and human behavior at the UC Irvine School of Medicine and former director of the medical ethics program at UCI Health – argued that he already had “natural immunity” to the coronavirus, claiming that the university the case was a policy in violation of his constitutional rights.

However, in a written opinion released Wednesday, a panel of appeals judges found that there is no “fundamental right” to be exempt from a vaccination order in a workplace, upholding a district judge’s earlier decision to dismiss the lawsuit.

The UC system has enacted a policy amid the pandemic that requires, with few exceptions, that all students, faculty and staff be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus and provide proof of vaccination before being allowed onto campus or into any university facility or office.

The UC policy also stated that employees who chose not to be vaccinated and who did not receive approved exemptions “potentially endanger the health of others” and “may face disciplinary action.”

Kheriaty has been a vocal opponent of the university’s vaccination policy. He co-authored an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal in which he argued that such a mandate, which includes what he called an “experimental” vaccine, was “unprecedented and unethical.”

In a federal lawsuit against University of California leaders alleging violations of the equal protection and due process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, Kheriaty argued that the vaccination policy was “illogical and neither subject to rigorous scrutiny nor one rational basis”. He also argued that “naturally immune individuals” who have been exposed to COVID-19, like Kheriaty himself, “have at least as good or better immunity to the virus” than “individuals who are vaccinated.”

US District Court Judge James V. Selna ruled against Kheriaty in December 2021, dismissing the lawsuit while calling the UC system’s vaccination mandate “rationally related” to slowing the spread of COVID-19.

Later that month, Kheriaty announced he had been fired for turning down the vaccine after nearly 15 years at university. UCI officials declined to discuss his termination at the time.

In an interview following the circuit court ruling and his release, Kheriaty indicated that he plans to appeal the decision to the Ninth Circuit, saying he is not opposed to the vaccine but believes individuals should have the right to choose if you get it.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals opinion found that Kheriaty’s lawsuit “failed to provide an adequate historical example to establish a ‘fundamental right’ to freedom from workplace immunization requirements,” noting that the Supreme Court previously had “a much more onerous immunization requirement.” “

The appellate judges wrote that, based on the academic studies he cited, Kheriaty “may have a valid political stance when it comes to criticizing the school’s COVID-19 policies.” However, the judges noted that the school cited its own studies to support the policy.

According to his website, Kheriaty currently serves as a fellow and director of the Bioethics and American Democracy program at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. It wasn’t immediately clear if he would seek a review of the Ninth Circuit’s decision by the US Supreme Court.

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