Dr. Bob Sears, critic of vaccine laws, could lose license after exempting toddler

Dr. Bob Sears, an Orange County pediatrician and nationally known critic of vaccination laws, faces the loss of his medical license after the state medical board accused him of improperly excusing a toddler from immunization and endangering both the child and the public.

The Medical Board of California contends in legal documents released Thursday that Sears committed “gross negligence” and deviated from standard practice when he issued a letter in 2014 prescribing no more vaccines for the child.

In the six-page accusation, the medical board faults Sears for failing to obtain a detailed history of a 2-year-old patient’s vaccines before writing the letter and instead relying on the child’s mother, who described how the boy lost urinary function and went limp in response to previous immunizations.

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By not providing an “evidence-based recommendation,” Sears left the child, his mother and “future contacts at risk for preventable and communicable disease,” according to the medical board’s accusation.

The physician faces a wide range of penalties if found negligent, including the revocation or suspension of his medical license.

Sears, 47, whose “The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child” has sold more than 250,000 copies and made him a celebrity among parents who see peril in the mandatory vaccination regime, could not be reached for comment late Thursday. 

The Dana Point resident opened his practice in 1998 and offered patients a delayed vaccination schedule. In “The Vaccine Book,” Sears offered his alternatives, such as delaying the start of the varicella vaccination for chickenpox from age 1 until 2 and pushing back the polio vaccination from 2 months to 9 months.

His stance has been criticized by fellow pediatricians for misinforming parents about the in-depth testing of vaccines and downplaying the dangers of vaccine-preventable diseases.

In an interview with The Times in 2014, Sears defended his philosophy of offering alternative immunization schedules, saying they “allow parents to get vaccinations in a way they're more comfortable” with.

The medical board’s accusation says that Sears began seeing the 2-year-old child, identified only by his initials, on April 3, 2014. The child’s mother described the child’s vaccination history and said he went “limp ‘like a ragdoll’ ” for 24 hours after his three-month vaccines, according to the accusation.

Ten days later, Sears excused the child from vaccines and wrote that the boy’s kidneys and intestines shut down after prior immunizations, according to the legal papers. The doctor also said that at three months, the child suffered an apparent encephalitis reaction that began 10 minutes after receiving the vaccine.

The letter was not stored in the boy’s medical file, for which the board accused Sears of failing to maintain adequate and accurate records.

In a later visit, the boy complained of a headache and reported that he was hit by a hammer two weeks before the medical visit. The medical board accused Sears of negligence by failing to conduct neurological testing on the child.

matt.hamilton@latimes.com

Twitter: @MattHjourno

Times staff writer Paloma Esquivel contributed to this report.

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