Cleveland Clinic's Cosgrove responds to doc's anti-vaccine rant

Cleveland Clinic building
Cleveland Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove has issued a warning to employees not to connect their personal views to the organization.

The public relations nightmare this week over a Cleveland Clinic doctor's anti-vaccine rant will never happen again if CEO Toby Cosgrove has any say in it.

Toby Cosgrove
Toby Cosgrove

Cosgrove issued a warning Wednesday to employees not to connect their personal views to the organization, STAT reports.

The warning comes in the wake of the backlash from the medical community in response to a column by Daniel Neides, M.D., who promoted a long discredited theory that preservatives in vaccines may be linked to increased cases of autism. He identified himself as a Cleveland Clinic physician and the Cleveland Clinic logo appeared above the column.

Daniel Neides
Daniel Neides

Neides is the director and chief operating officer of the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, but Cleveland Clinic officials said he didn’t put the column through the usual channels and it was published without their approval. He has since apologized, but the organization has promised disciplinary action against Neides.

STAT obtained a copy of the email Cosgrove sent to employees and reported he told staff that publishing discredited ideas under the Cleveland Clinic banner can potentially cause confusion and controversy that may undermine the organization’s broader mission. Cosgrove didn’t mention Neides’ name directly but said his opinions are not supported by evidence-based medicine and Cleveland Clinic advocates vaccinations to prevent the spread of communicable diseases.

In addition to disciplinary action, the clinic said this week it may no longer sell some alternative medicine products sold by the wellness institute.

But the damage has been done, as STAT noted that anti-vaccine supporters have used Neides' column to promote their efforts. The medical community fears that these types of views will erode the public’s trust in vaccines, especially in light of President-elect Donald Trump’s stance on vaccines and his reported interest in having Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a well-known vaccine skeptic, lead a panel on vaccine safety.

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