In response to the article appearing first online on September 22, 2021, titled “Meet the Santa Barbara Doctor Who Refuses to Be Vaccinated,” we would like to clarify a few issues.
In the article, at the end, the author quotes Dr. Kurt Ransohoff from prior comments he had made in association with the announcement of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) vaccine mandate discussed in the article. It could appear that he was responding to Dr. Abate’s position, which was not the case, as we had not been contacted about the article discussing Dr. Abate’s viewpoints.
We would like to comment on that now.
First, we should point out that Dr. Abate has been and continues to be a skilled, experienced board-certified oncologist.
However, it is important to note that Dr. Abate’s views about the appropriateness of the mandate are his own. They do not reflect the views of Sansum Clinic leadership or the vast majority of physicians and other providers at Sansum Clinic. More than 99 percent of the 250-plus providers at Sansum Clinic are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Sansum has been an outspoken leader in promoting vaccination of the entire community and of health-care providers in particular. Our staff has worked nights and weekends (the times when we have administered most of the 20,000-plus injections that we have given) in order to vaccinate the community. We vaccinated many of our community’s medical staff who are not part of Sansum Clinic at the request of the local Public Health Department, as we were able to do that before others could, and vaccinating all health-care workers is critically important.
Although we disagree with Dr. Abate’s views on the mandate and our response to the mandate, CDPH has granted the ability of people to utilize religious or medical exemptions to getting the vaccine. We will abide by those regulations, which will require any person using an exemption to be tested for the virus that causes COVID-19 on a regular basis, at least once weekly and more often in some circumstances. All our provider staff are screened daily for symptoms and required to wear masks.
Public Health Officials have historically issued directives and been able to mandate the behavior of patients and providers in an effort to control infectious diseases (tuberculosis is a notable example). Most of those mandates have resulted in no controversy worthy of newspaper articles. COVID-19 uniquely has resulted in discussions that most infectious diseases do not create. For instance, when something that appears to some as an ideology or political viewpoint, while at the same time is felt by others to be a “religious belief” and meets the wide definition in a regulation of “religious belief,” we are in terrain that is unique to this pandemic.
We will honor religious or medical exemptions that meet the guidelines of the CDPH as we comply with their regulations, while at the same time doing everything we can to protect our staff, our patients and the community, as we have done from the outset of the pandemic.
Kurt Ransohoff, MD, FACP, is chief executive officer and chief medical officer of Sansum Clinic; James Egan, MD, is president of Sansum-Santa Barbara Medical Clinic, Inc.