STAFFORD TOWNSHIP— The state says the doctor involved in the Ocean County case of faulty vaccines may have knowingly given children compromised vaccines designed to protect against mumps, measles, chickenpox and other diseases.

New Jersey Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino submitted a complaint Monday to the state Board of Medical Examiners against Dr. Michael Bleiman of Southern Ocean Pediatrics and Family Medicine in Manahawkin, alleging he committed fraud, gross negligence and misconduct in administering child vaccinations.

A request for comment from Bleiman’s practice was not returned Tuesday.

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The state Department of Health issued a warning Monday that 900 children were given possibly faulty vaccines at the practice between November 2014 and July 28, 2016, because they were stored at improper temperatures, reducing their effectiveness.

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The affected vaccines were given through Vaccines for Children, a federally funded program that provides free or low-cost vaccines to eligible low-income children in New Jersey.

Health inspectors on July 28 found Bleiman’s practice had 280 vaccines stored at incorrect temperatures.

Inspectors quarantined the vaccines at the Manahawkin practice and told Bleiman not to use them until they were proved effective, authorities said. The state alleges he gave patients the vaccines anyway.

And the same day, Bleiman accepted a new shipment of an additional 335 doses. Health officials advised the practice to store the new vaccines at acceptable temperatures.

Southern Ocean Pediatrics submitted temperature data to the state-run Vaccines For Children program that indicated they were still experiencing storage issues, authorities said.

From July 28 to Oct. 24, the state found Bleiman’s practice gave 38 children compromised vaccines, including the ones that were supposed to remain quarantined, authorities allege.

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State VFC program staff removed all possibly compromised and ineffective vaccines from the office.

Nicole Gibson, of Berkeley Township, Ocean County, has brought her children to Southern Ocean Pediatrics for treatment for 17 years. Her youngest daughter had received vaccines at the practice since her birth in 2014.

Even though her daughter’s vaccines may not have been affected, Gibson was scared nonetheless.

“I know she didn’t get those free vaccines, but if you didn’t store the free ones properly, how can you guarantee that you stored my daughter’s vaccines correctly?” she said. “I told them I wanted a script for blood work to test her for every vaccine they’ve given her.”

Privately purchased vaccines that were covered by insurance were kept in a separate storage unit, the Department of Health said. The department said Vaccines for Children health inspectors didn’t have access to those vaccines.

Meanwhile, Porrino’s complaint calls to suspend or revoke Bleiman’s medical license following a hearing. It also considers charging Bleiman with civil penalties, fees and restitution.

The possibly ineffective vaccines do not pose any health dangers to the children who received them, but health officials said those children might not be fully protected against vaccine-preventable diseases.

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Not all children impacted by the faulty vaccines will need to be revaccinated, health officials said.

Children may be able to get blood tests called titers to determine whether the vaccines were effective, but tests are not available for all diseases. Some children may need to get new vaccines.

Department of Health officials said it is not recommending that affected children be excluded from school and will leave revaccination decisions to parents, guardians and their health care providers.

The Department of Health said families can call the NJ Health Hotline at 866-448-2432 for questions related to this incident.

Contact:

609-272-7022 NLeonard@pressofac.com

Twitter @ACPressNLeonard

Previously interned and reported for Boston.com, The Asbury Park Press, The Boston Globe

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