Finding the right pediatrician can be a tough task for new parents looking for someone they can trust. Unfortunately, especially for the patients of a Florida pediatrician and the parents who trusted her to care for their children, hundreds of kids have been put at risk for illness and disease.
According to an emergency suspension of license order filed by the Florida Department of Health, Dr. Ishrat Sohail was arrested on Friday for fraud and the dangerous administration of vaccines.
A confidential informant told the department that Sohail was using vaccines from the Vaccines for Children Program (which is provided at no cost and intended for Medicaid and uninsured children) to patients with private insurance.
After an investigation and raid at the doctor's office, inspectors also found partially used single-dose vaccine vials stored in the office refrigerator. These vaccines included those to prevent hepatitis A, HPV and whooping cough. Children are recommended to get the first dose of hepatitis A vaccine between 12 months and 23 months of age, and the second dose six months to 18 months after. Preteens and teens often get two doses of the HPV vaccine, and whooping cough vaccinations are recommended for infants and children through age 6.
WESH Orlando reports that Sohail would allegedly give patients partial doses of vaccines while billing insurance companies for a full dose and recording the proper dosage in medical records. The remaining doses would then be stored in the fridge and administered later to another patient.
"Partial doses of vaccine may not provide sufficient protection from potentially dangerous vaccine preventable diseases," a representative from the Florida Department of Health said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, proper vaccine handling and preparation is critical for a successful and safe immunization program.
"Medications packaged as single-use vials or syringes should never be used for more than one patient," the CDC warns. "Single-dose vials and manufacturer-filled syringes are designed for single-dose administration and should be discarded if vaccine has been withdrawn or reconstituted and subsequently not used within the time frame specified by the manufacturer."
An employee also claimed at the least two patients tested positive for the flu, but Sohail never notified them to avoid suspicion about improper vaccine practices, according to WKMG Orlando—an especially reckless decision, given how serious and deadly the flu season has been.
Sohail was also accused of mishandling vaccines back in 2016, when she administered two vials of vaccines meant for Medicaid and uninsured children to those with private insurance. She was suspended from administering vaccines for two months, then was allowed to continue her practice with a limited number of vaccines.
An estimated 500 children might have been impacted by the partial vaccine doses. If your child received vaccines from Sohail between 2016 and 2018, the CDC and Florida Department of Health recommends you contact a new primary care provider to consider revaccination.
If you're a concerned parent or if your child experienced a severe adverse reaction or infection at the injection site (as Sohail did not follow best practices to maintain the sterility of vaccines), contact the Orange County (Fla.) Department of Health at 407-858-1485.