These days, Dr. Robert Huizenga finds himself going to see his patients through the visitor’s entrance at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. After a 40-year affiliation with Cedars, Huizenga, also known as “Dr. H” from the NBC show The Biggest Loser, was stripped of his hospital privileges because he wouldn’t get a covid booster shot.
Rather than go into Cedars-Sinai as a doctor, which would require two vaccines and a booster shot, he goes through the public entrance, where he needs only two vaccines and a negative COVID test to be allowed inside. The workaround isn’t ideal since he doesn’t have his normal privileges and can’t log onto the Cedars computer system.
Huizenga, a Harvard-educated (pro-vaccine) doctor, credits his two prior Pfizer doses for getting a light case of (asymptomatic) covid back in January. In his view, the omicron infection was the booster shot. He plans on eventually getting the booster but doesn’t want to overload his system.
“Straight up—I am not going to get a booster right now,” Hulzenga tells us, adding adamantly, “My chances of a side effect is significantly greater than my chance of any benefit. I am surprised that Cedars-Sinai is unaware of the recent spate of medical publications revealing covid infections in vaccinated individuals is the equivalent if not superior to booster vaccination.”
He is amongst a growing number of medical professionals who believe in hybrid immunity: a combination of vaccination and omicron infection. Dr. Monica Gandhi supports that theory, too. A physician and professor at the University of California San Francisco, she is considered one of the go-to doctors on the cutting edge of COVID research.
“There is ample evidence at this point that ‘hybrid immunity’ is stronger than either vaccination [even with a booster] or infection alone,” she said. “Therefore, this physician has stronger immunity than I do as a physician who has received three doses.”
Before the suspension, Huizenga’s private doctor wrote a letter to Cedars asking for an exemption due to his stellar antibody test. It’s a blood test that looks for evidence of antibodies from past infection or those generated from the vaccine. Although Cedars-Sinai performs such tests, it doesn’t consider them when allowing for exemptions.
“Healthcare workers, including physicians, are allowed to forego vaccinations only if they qualify for medical exemptions or religious accommodations under the state mandate,” explains a Cedars spokesman. “There is no provision in the state order for exemptions based on antibody levels.”
So who is following the science? There are studies to bolster arguments on both sides of the issue. As variants and rules around COVID-19 evolve, some in the medical community are at odds over the “science.” Two years into the pandemic, a new debate is emerging over booster shots. It leaves the two sides in a standoff. Huizenga did appeal the suspension, but Cedars does not have such a process for medical exemptions.
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