New York Post
NEEDLE 'NO'S' DOC SLAPPED
By MELISSA KLEIN
November 25, 2007 — An Upper West Side pediatrician who conspired with families to get their young kids into school without state-mandated shots has been disciplined in the first case of its kind in New York, The Post has learned.
Dr. Mark Nesselson was fined $10,000 by a state disciplinary panel this month and told he can practice only under supervision. He admitted to state charges of falsifying forms for four children in two families. The 50-year-old pediatrician told The Post he's done the same for at least a handful of other families over the years.
The parents of his patients were concerned about possible adverse health effects of vaccines.
Nesselson, who has pledged to play it straight from now on so he can continue to practice, thinks the real problem has yet to be solved. "The central issue has not gone away," said the soft-spoken doctor, who has the bleached-blond highlights and tan of a surfer. "For me, that is the merit behind mandating immunizations that start so early, that are so numerous."
Nesselson took a stand in the national vaccine controversy that, fueled largely by concerns over autism, has led an increasing number of parents to question the wisdom and safety of the shots – and in some cases to forgo them entirely.
He said he began to question the safety of vaccines in the early 1990s after seeing many children with autism whose parents said the onset of the disorder coincided with the vaccinations.
"The things that we are immunizing against are circulating in such low frequency, it impels those people who do what I do, who offer immunizations to children, to re-evaluate risks versus benefits," he said. He said he would work with parents who wanted their kids immunized on a slower or reduced schedule.
Nesselson said he got into trouble after he moved to Hawaii two years ago and gave medical records to his patients' parents to take to their new doctors.
The new pediatrician seen by two families turned in Nesselson to authorities, he said.
He signed a consent form with the state Office for Professional Medical Conduct agreeing to its penalties, which include taking a course in medical ethics and three years of monitoring.
Despite Nesselson's concerns, an overwhelming number of public-health officials and pediatricians insist vaccines are safe and necessary. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintains: "The great preponderance of evidence is that there's no link between vaccines and autism."
A Manhattan mother of two for whom Nesselson falsified records said she did not want her kids to have the shot for measles, mumps and rubella – the MMR vaccine – until they were older.
The worried mom said since the family never traveled and the diseases were rare in New York, she didn't feel she was putting her kids or others at risk.
"The form was filled out," she said of the falsified record. "We knew what we were doing."
She said her children had the vaccine when they were older – after they entered school.
Some parents who don't want to vaccinate their kids characterized Nesselson as a hero.
Eileen Phoenix, a Staten Island mother of four, said she refused to vaccinate her fourth child because her third was diagnosed with autism.
"I feel terrible for this doctor," she said.
So does the mom for whom Nesselson lied.
"I made the decision with my husband," she said. "The fact that it came back to cause Mark such hardship – it was probably one of the worst days
of my life."