City physician censured over anti-vaccine advice to youngster
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A Winnipeg doctor, who gave anti-vaccine information to an 11-year-old and her dad, and prescribed Ivermectin to another patient, has been censured by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba.
Dr. Wilhelmus Grobler, a family physician at the South Sherbrook Health Centre on Sherbrook Street, must pay for the costs of the investigation ($6,165). Both the censure and details about what happened were posted on the college website.
“This is a prime example of the dangers of misinformation to patient safety,” said Dr. Anna Ziomek, the college registrar and CEO, in a statement.
“During the pandemic, the public has placed great trust in the information provided by their physicians, enhancing the level of accountability on physicians when commenting or disseminating information. Advice and treatment provided to patients must be evidence-informed and in the patient’s best interest.”
The Winnipeg dad told the Free Press last year he had taken his daughter to see Grobler to help convince her to get the COVID-19 vaccine when she turned 12, but instead, they received anti-vaccination information.
The dad said Grobler told them the trial period for the vaccines wasn’t long enough, noting it took 15 years for the polio vaccine to be approved while other vaccines take at least five years. The doctor also told them the only people who need to get the vaccine are people older than 80 and, while there is no evidence the vaccine causes sterilization, he said he believed it could and he was concerned.
The dad, who said he had become frustrated with the doctor, asked Grobler if the vaccine could make people magnetic.
The father said Grobler replied that some people have more ferrous blood that can react to the vaccine, so they could become magnetic for up to a week.
In a second investigation of Grobler by the college — which wasn’t made public at the time — the doctor was found to have prescribed Ivermectin, an anti-parasitic agent used to deworm livestock, to a 34-year-old patient whom he believed had myocarditis after getting his COVID-19 shot.
Myocarditis can cause heart failure, arrhythmias and sudden death, but is considered a rare complication from the vaccine and one that Health Canada says usually responds well to rest and medication.
Grobler said he prescribed the drug because of “patient demand and thought it would not cause harm and might even have a placebo effect.”
Three months later, the college sent an email to physicians telling them not to use Ivermectin to treat COVID-19 in humans. But at the time Grobler saw the patient, he would have known there was widespread skepticism about using it, the college said.
“It was Dr. Grobler’s responsibility to provide care in accordance with the expected standard,” the college says in its decision.
“He did not meet that standard when he prescribed Ivermectin without sufficient evidence of efficacy and to accede to patient pressure.”
The registrar noted the October 2021 incident — in which Grobler gave his young patient anti-vaccine information — took place a year after the college had warned him about a notice he had posted in his clinic comparing COVID-19 to the common cold. He had agreed to take it down and refrain from posting similar signs or disseminate information to patients that didn’t align with public health directives.
“Breaching an undertaking undermines (the college’s) role in protecting the public and will not be tolerated,” Ziomek said.
Grobler’s notice said: “The virus causing COVID-19 is a cold virus and causes cold symptoms for the vast majority of people infected between the ages 0-80.
“Statistically, it is not more lethal or carry excess morbidity over any other cold or flu virus for this age group.”
Grobler also said only people aged 80 and older, with pre-existing medical conditions, should be under lockdown; all others should be able to contract it “until the whole herd has natural immunity.”
In Manitoba, 2,053 people have died from COVID-19.
Grobler, who graduated from the University of Pretoria in South Africa in 1980, and has been registered to practise in Manitoba since Aug. 22, 1991, is on vacation and could not be reached for comment.
After last year’s Free Press story was published, Grobler sent a statement denying he was an anti-vaxxer.
Grobler said he was “in support of COVID-19 vaccines and all public health orders and guidelines in the province of Manitoba.
“I strongly encourage all of my eligible patients, and all eligible Manitobans, to get the vaccine as soon as possible in order to protect us from the virus and to decrease the stress on our public health-care system.”
As far as his comments to the dad and his daughter, for which he was censured, Grobler said at the time “the facts are not properly represented.”
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.
Updated on Tuesday, July 19, 2022 7:23 AM CDT: Rephrases paragraph regarding prescription of Ivermectin