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Cleveland Clinic CEO tells staff not to link their views with health system after vaccine controversy

Daniel Neides, a system doctor who published an anti-vaccine statement, will be disciplined, CEO says.

Susan Morse, Senior Editor

Cleveland Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove has reportedly told staff not to link their personal convictions to the hospital after a doctor in the system waded into the anti-vaccine controversy this week.

In an email reportedly sent to staff, Cosgrove did not name the doctor, but told colleagues that columns, such as one written by Daniel Neides, MD, of the Cleveland Clinic, suggesting a link between vaccines and autism, could undermine the health system's broader mission, according to Stat.

Daniel Neides will receive disciplinary action, according to a statement on the hospital system's website.

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Cleveland Clinic has posted a statement saying the health system is fully committed to evidence-based medicine.

"Harmful myths and untruths about vaccinations have been scientifically debunked in rigorous ways," the statement said. "We completely support vaccinations to protect people, especially children who are particularly vulnerable. Our physician published his statement without authorization from Cleveland Clinic. His views do not reflect the position of Cleveland Clinic and appropriate disciplinary action will be taken."

On Jan. 6, cleveland.com published Neides' column in which he said that toxins such as mercury and formaldehydle, are present in some vaccinations.

"But when toxins disrupt normal function, problems can occur," he wrote. "Those problems include cancers, autoimmune diseases, neurologic problems like autism, ADHD, and Parkinson's disease, and the most prevalent chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease."

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Neides later said in the piece that he did not know and would not debate whether vaccines cause autism.

Neides reportedly did not get approval from the Cleveland Clinic to publish the column.

The column provoked a firestorm and came at a time when Robert Kennedy Jr., a known vaccine skeptic, said President-elect Donald Trump had asked him to head a commission on vaccines.

The Trump team said no decision had been made on having a special commission.

During a press conference Wednesday, Cosgrove was singled out by the president-elect as being among health system leaders who would weigh in on a privatization proposal for the Department of Veterans Affairs that would allow veterans to be treated at non-system hospitals.

Cosgrove was under consideration to head the VA. At Wednesday's press conference, Trump announced David Shulkin, the current undersecretary of the VA, would fill that role.

Twitter: @SusanJMorse