University fires 'medical ethics' director after he challenges vaccine mandate, files lawsuit

Aaron Kheriaty was fired from UC Irvine after not complying with the university's vaccine mandate.

He filed a lawsuit against the university in August 2021.

The University of California, Irvine fired Aaron Kheriaty after he refused to comply with the UC system’s vaccine mandate and challenged the policy with a lawsuit. 

Kheriaty had served as director of UC Irvine’s Medical Ethics program. Kheriaty also served as professor of psychiatry at the UCI School of Medicine.  

In August, the professor filed a lawsuit against the UC vaccine mandate, on the basis that natural immunity “following Covid infection is equal to… vaccine-mediated immunity.” 

witness declaration from UC School of Medicine faculty supports the premise and suggests those with natural immunity “may suffer worse adverse effects after vaccination than individuals not previously exposed to the virus.”

The lawsuit also suggests forcing vaccination among the naturally immunized violates the equal protection clause granted by the 14th Amendment. 

[RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Vaccine policy switch may put doctoral student’s future in jeopardy]

On Dec. 17,  Kheriaty announced his dismissal from UCI after having been placed on investigatory leave since Oct. 1. He wrote that he was barred from campus, prohibited from teaching, given half pay, and was not given the opportunity to contact students or patients.

Speaking to Campus Reform, Zephyr Institute Executive Director Matt Bowman said, “[i]n forming and defending his medical and ethical positions, Dr. Kheriaty exercised his professional obligation with robust academic deliberation, courage, and moral responsibility.”

Kheriaty has a professional affiliation with the Zephyr Institute, an “independent academic center” in Palo Alto, California. 

“Instead of protecting the academic freedom of this leading medical ethicist and one of UC’s most respected medical teachers, UC fired him,” Bowman continued. 

During the beginning of the pandemic, Kheriaty reportedly worked in the UCI hospital where he recalled “seeing patients in our clinic, psychiatric wards, emergency room, and hospital wards—including Covid patients in the ER, ICU, and medicine wards.” 

At this time, Kheriaty has stated that he worked with the UC Office of the President to draft policies and serve as a spokesperson for the ventilator triage policy. He also was involved in handling PPE shortages and addressing the medical student body, according to the Dec. 17 announcement. 

[RELATED: CDC, universities are paying students to be vaccine influencers]

In a June 2021 opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal, Kheriaty wrote, “coercive mandates violate basic principles of medical ethics.”

“Requiring the naturally immune to be vaccinated doesn’t make anyone actually safer. It is wrong to risk harming healthy people so that college can peddle a psychological placebo to those who don’t care enough to consider basic scientific facts.” 

After his dismissal from UCI, Kheriaty announced his plan to continue pursuing the lawsuit, work with the Zephyr Institute and the Ethics & Public Policy Center, and establish a private practice. 

“We are proud that Kheriaty remains a senior fellow at the Zephyr Institute and head of our Health and Human Flourishing Program because he provides a powerful example of conscientious and courageous academic work,” Bowman told Campus Reform

Other professors have legally challenged their universities’ vaccine policies. 

For instance, Campus Reform spoke to Professor Todd Zywicki about his success after fighting George Mason University’s refusal to provide a vaccine exemption, also on the basis of natural immunity. 

UCI told Campus Reform it does not respond to media inquiries “regarding personnel issues.”

Campus Reform reached out to Kheriaty for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.