A Pediatrician Was Arrested For Using Partial Vaccine Doses, & Here’s What Parents Need To Know

by Annamarya Scaccia

As a parent, you want to make sure that the pediatrician you choose for your child is not only reputable, but has your kid's best interest at heart. You want to know that your child's doctor will keep your child healthy, and will make sure they are up to date on all of their vaccines and necessary tests. Unfortunately, there are some physicians out there who will breach your trust and could put your kid in harm's way. In fact, parents in Florida now have to worry about immunization after a pediatrician was arrested for allegedly using partial vaccine doses. Hundreds of children may have been affected.

Officials with the Florida Department of Health have accused Orlando-based pediatrician Dr. Ishrat Sohail of allegedly giving about 500 children partial vaccinations, but charging their families in full, according to The Orlando Sentinel. Public health officials said that the partial shots had made them less effective in combating preventive diseases, and it's possible that the vaccines may not have been sterilized, The Orlando Sentinel reported.

Police had arrested Sohail last week on a Medicaid fraud charge, but she has since posted bond and has been released from jail, WFLA reported. Romper reached out to Sohail's office, but she could not be reached for comment.

In a statement, state public health officials have warned parents to watch out for "adverse reaction or infection" at the injection site where Sohail had administered the vaccine, according to CBS News. Officials have also said that they are contacting families to recommend that they revaccinate their child if they received a vaccine from Sohail or her staff over the last two years, CBS News reported.

The state surgeon general had issued an emergency order revoking Sohail's license to practice medicine, citing "an immediate serious danger to the public health," according to The Orlando Sentinel.

Health officials found vials of partial vaccine doses in her office refrigerator during a late January raid, The Orlando Sentinel reported. They then altered the Attorney General's Medical Fraud Control Unit, which filed charges alleging that Sohail charged patients for full doses.

This isn't the first time Sohail has been under the Florida Department of Health's radar. The pediatrician received a two-month suspension in 2016 from a federal vaccination program for allegedly giving children with private insurances vaccines intended for uninsured and Medicaid patients, according to CBS News. When she was reinstated into the program, she was given limited vaccine doses.

As a parent, it is terrifying to think that my toddler son would receive only partial vaccine doses, thus exposing him to preventable diseases that could be potentially life-threatening. But it is a real concern that parents have to worry about.

This is not just because of cases like the one out of Florida. In 2015, a Pediatrics survey found that 37 percent of primary care physicians and pediatricians would agree with parents' request to space out childhood immunization by giving shots over a longer period of time, according to TIME. Although the doctors in these cases are acting in response to a parent's request, the fact that 37 percent were willing to do so, deviating from the recommended vaccination schedule, is quite alarming. In fact, one doctor interviewed by TIME acknowledged the danger in spacing out vaccines, stating,

The baby leaving my office is at risk of getting the illnesses for which he’s not vaccinated. To know I’m going to pick one [vaccine] and leave the other behind, despite all the time I spend explaining the risks and benefits to the parents—it’s very difficult for me.

Vaccinations — and the doses or schedules that ensure their effectiveness — are not something doctors or parents should change for no reason. It puts children in harm's way. It can expose them to potentially fatal illnesses that are contagious and easily spread, such as measles. Parents should seek advice from a medical professional if they're thinking about spacing out their child's vaccines, and they should consider getting a second opinion if they suspect their doctor isn't administering vaccines according to the CDC guidelines.

Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.