California Doctor Banned From Giving Vaccine Exemptions After Issuing 1,000 to Children

A California doctor has been banned from issuing medical exemptions after she issued around 1,000 to children over the course of three years.

Dr. Tara Alaina Zandvliet has been placed on three years of probation for gross negligence and unprofessional conduct, effective from September 4, the medical board said in its decision.

According to the board, Dr. Zandvliet said she had provided roughly 1,000 medical exemptions for vaccinations between 2016 and June 2019. The board said she was not able to provide details of the breakdown between temporary and permanent exemptions she issued.

Under the terms of her probation, she is prohibited from making or issuing any written exemption from immunization. She is also required to complete an ethics course and a medical record-keeping course.

Dr. Zandvliet and her attorney have been contacted for comment.

Medical exemptions used to be given only to those who suffered serious allergic reactions during or after receiving a shot or had compromised immune systems, according to The Los Angeles Times, but that changed when a 2016 law removed personal belief exemptions to routine childhood immunizations.

According to the California Department of Public Health, the proportion of students entering kindergarten with medical exemptions rose sharply as a result—from 931 (0.2 percent) in 2015 to 4,812 (0.9 percent) in 2019.

"Some of these exemptions are concentrated in certain schools which could place them below the 95 percent herd immunity standard," the department said, meaning the level of immunity needed to prevent the spread of an infectious disease, like measles.

According to The Mercury News, Dr. Zandvliet became the go-to doctor for parents in San Diego who wanted to stop their children from having to get the standard vaccines required to go to school in California.

She wrote exemptions based on children's allergies and other reasons that weren't in line with medical guidelines, the medical board said.

One exemption she granted to a male child was "based on a remote and irrelevant family medical history."

But now, under a recent California law that further restricted medical exemptions, all of the exemptions she granted will be revoked.

California Sen. Richard Pan, who authored the bill, told The Mercury News that he was glad the state's medical board was taking action to "keep our kids safe at school."

"We wanted to be sure with SB 276 that the Medical Board of California had the tools it needed to pursue physicians who abused their authority to write medical exemptions which were not consistent with the standard of care," he said.

Pan, who is a pediatrician, also urged parents to make sure their children's immunizations are up to date during the coronavirus pandemic.

"Just because COVID is here doesn't mean measles or pertussis have gone away," he said.

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A health worker vaccinates a patient during the Saban Community Clinic Vaccine Drive Up for LA Children on August 12, 2020, in Los Angeles, California. Valerie Macon/AFP via Getty Images
California Doctor Banned From Giving Vaccine Exemptions After Issuing 1,000 to Children | U.S.