This article about the Minnesota Medical Board discipline of anti-vaccine physician Bob Zajac was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.
Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease. She is also a member of the Vaccines Working Group on Ethics and Policy.
Who is Dr. Bob Zajac?
Dr. Bob Zajac is a Minnesota anti-vaccine pediatrician. He had made statements alleging that unvaccinated children are healthier than vaccinated, protected children – a claim with no evidence behind it. He purported that vaccine injuries are one in a hundred, even though real vaccines harms are extremely rare, and falsely claimed vaccines cause autism.
He had participated on a panel with other anti-vaccine activists in Minnesota in 2019, during a measles outbreak.
Dr. Zajac was investigated by the Minnesota Medical Board, after they received four complaints against him, for misleading parents about vaccines and discouraging them from protecting their children. He, apparently, notifies patients that vaccines are unsafe and “encourages patients to delay or avoid routine vaccination.” Dr. Zajac challenged the claims in court, alleging violation of his first amendment rights, and lost.
On July 10, 2021, the Board entered a stipulation with Dr. Zajac that is, in essence, acknowledging guilt and imposing sanctions. The stipulation says that “The investigation revealed that [Dr. Zajac] is not adequately counseling patients on vaccine risk and safety. The investigation further revealed that [Dr. Zajac] does not consider vaccines safe, and he notifies patients of this belief during the informed consent process.
In the settlement, Dr. Zajac consented “that the Board may make and enter an Order disciplining Respondent and conditioning Respondent’s license..” on several conditions. The sanction – the conditions Dr. Zajac needs to fulfill to avoid further sanctions are:
- Take courses in:
- Medical ethics.
- Communicable diseases.
- Professional boundaries.
- Patient communication, focusing on explaining risk and informed consent.
- Read a document about the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.
- Write a five page or more paper summarizing what he learned and “demonstrating how it is implemented in his practice.”
- Remove from his website language criticizing CDC’s research on vaccine safety and language proposing alternative vaccine scheduled.
- Not to post public materials on his clinic website blog or vlog.
- Pay a civil penalty of $10,000.
This is more meaningful than the sanction suggests because boards are generally hesitant to act based on complaints based on online statements – but they did here, they sanctioned Dr. Zajac, they did not back down when he sued, and this is a warning for future reference.
This is not a dramatic sanction, but it’s a sanction, and it will remain on Dr. Zajac’s record and may reduce his ability to mislead people on vaccines. It is also a warning to him that future anti-vaccine efforts will not go without sanction. I hope.