Some unvaccinated providers and staff are no longer welcome at their respective places of work. That’s what happened to Dr. Christopher Rake, an anesthesiologist at UCLA Health in California. He openly came to work in defiance of the state’s vaccine mandate. The scene ended with Rake being escorted out of the hospital.
Suspicious and Proud
Rake hasn’t been shy about his skepticism of the COVID-19 vaccines here in the U.S. According to The LA Times, Rake attended an anti-vaccine rally on August 29 with the group called Citizens United for Freedom, where told the crowd that “they want to force a vaccination or medication or treatment into my body that I don’t want. So, they’re telling me, ‘Take the jab or we take your job.’ And I’m here to say, ‘No. That’s not OK.’”
The organization has published several pieces of misinformation to its website related to pandemic, including documents claiming the safety trials used to authorize the vaccine were insufficient as well as a link to a website instructing people on how to obtain prescriptions for ivermectin, an antiparasitic drug that many people are using to combat or prevent COVID-19, even though the FDA has not authorized it for these purposes and taking large amounts could lead to injury or hospitalization.
Shortly after a video of the rally was posted to Twitter, UCLA Health tweeted, “These comments do not represent the views of UCLA Health. Unvaccinated people are more likely to contract COVID-19 & we encourage employees to be vaccinated. We adhere to the state public health order requiring health care workers to be vaccinated or undergo regular testing.”
Other providers at the hospital openly criticized Rake’s appearance at the rally.
“I think it’s mind boggling that a physician at a world-class institution would go to such a rally and use their name as a physician to directly contradict public health,” said Dr. Anna Yap, an emergency medicine resident physician at UCLA.
Dr. Nina Shapiro, a professor of head and neck surgery at UCLA’s School of Medicine, also shared her concerns.
“We as a health care community … were some of the earliest in the country to have access to [the vaccine],” Shapiro said. “To twist that into a negative – especially when you know one of the main reasons why we are in this disastrous delta [variant-driven surge] is due to slow vaccine acceptance in the community – and spewing this misinformation is frankly deadly.”
The company operates several hospitals in the Los Angeles area. As part of the state-wide mandate, all active employees doing in-person work were required to be at least partially vaccinated by Sept. 30.
Things escalated when Rake tried to go to work as normal on Monday. He recorded a video of himself being escorted out of the hospital by another man.
“This is what happens when you stand up for freedom and when you show up to work, willing to work, despite being unvaccinated, and this is the price you have to pay sometimes,” Rake says in the video.
“But what they don’t realize is that I’m willing to go lose everything — job, paycheck, freedom, even my life for this cause.”
He then concludes the video by saying, “Be well. United we stand, divided we fall.”
The hospital says Rake has been placed on administrative leave for refusing to get vaccinated. It’s still not clear if he will face additional disciplinary action for his behavior.
In response to the ordeal, the hospital issued a statement that said, “Per the state public health order and University of California policy, active UCLA Health employees not working remotely must be vaccinated or receive an exemption. Those out of compliance are subject to progressive discipline, including restricting access to work sites and being placed on leave.”