British Columbia

B.C. doctor to face disciplinary panel over 'misleading, incorrect or inflammatory' claims about COVID-19

A B.C. doctor who's been touring the province and giving public speeches that include false claims about the COVID-19 vaccine is facing a hearing over allegations of professional misconduct.

Dr. Charles Hoffe told patients to buy veterinary ivermectin, made false claims about vaccines, college says

Dr. Charles Hoffe is shown during the Doctors on Tour stop in Terrace, B.C., on Jan. 26. (Georgie Smyth/CBC)

A B.C. doctor who's been touring the province and giving public speeches that include false claims about the COVID-19 vaccine is facing a hearing over allegations of professional misconduct.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C. has posted a notice online saying a citation has been issued for family physician Dr. Charles Hoffe of Lytton for "publishing statements on social media and other digital platforms that were misleading, incorrect or inflammatory about vaccinations, treatments and public measures relating to COVID-19."

Vancouver pediatrician Dr. Alastair McAlpine, one of more than a dozen doctors who've filed complaints against Hoffe with the college, said he has mixed feelings about the news.

"[I'm] grateful on the one hand that something is being done, but also just disappointment because it honestly feels like it's too little too late … and there's no indication that his licence has been limited in any way, which means he can continue to spread the misinformation that he's been spreading," McAlpine told CBC News.

A college disciplinary panel will consider evidence that includes Hoffe's recommendation for patients to use the antiparasitic medication ivermectin to treat COVID-19, and suggesting they visit animal feed stores to buy the veterinary version of the treatment, according to the notice.

Ivermectin has become popular in anti-vaccine circles as a treatment for the coronavirus, but the most recent research suggests it is not effective and consuming a formulation meant for animals can have serious side-effects.

The notice also points to Hoffe's false claims that COVID-19 vaccines are more dangerous than the disease, including "publicly expressing that the COVID-19 vaccinations cause microscopic blood clots that cause serious neurological harm, female infertility and a high number of deaths that is not recognized by public health."

His incorrect suggestions that vaccinated people can cause harm to unvaccinated people will be under consideration, as well.

CBC News has contacted Hoffe for comment, but he has yet to reply.

Letter posted on anti-vaccine website

The allegations against Hoffe concern statements he's published online beginning in April 2021, according to the college's notice.

That's when Hoffe suddenly rose to prominence in the anti-COVID vaccine movement after publishing a letter to Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on the website of the anti-vaccine group Vaccine Choice Canada.

Hoffe claimed in his letter that after administering the Moderna shot to community members, he believed "this vaccine is quite clearly more dangerous than COVID-19."

His letter also echoed a common but thoroughly debunked talking point that suggests mRNA vaccines are actually a form of "experimental gene modification therapy."

More recently, Hoffe has been one of the main speakers in a series of events called "Doctors on Tour" that stopped in more than a dozen communities across the province in December and January.

When a CBC reporter approached Hoffe during a stop in Terrace, B.C., earlier this year, he declined to comment on any college investigations into his activities.

Dr. Stephen Malthouse and Dr. Charles Hoffe are the subject of complaints from fellow physicians about spreading COVID-19 misinformation. The pair are both practicing physicians and both have active licenses. (Georgie Smyth/CBC)

McAlpine said he was disappointed that the notice from the college doesn't mention Hoffe's public statements on tour or during other public appearances.

"They haven't mentioned anything about the fact that since the initial complaint he's appeared at multiple schools spreading misinformation, telling patients not to take the vaccine, calling it the 'death shot' and the 'clot shot,' standing in front of effigies of [Heath Minister] Adrian Dix with a noose around his neck," McAlpine said, referring to a protest outside the B.C. legislature in December.

He also noted there has been no update from the college on its investigation into Dr. Stephen Malthouse, who has also been a part of the tour and has been the subject of numerous complaints from fellow doctors related to COVID-19 misinformation.

Malthouse filed a petition in B.C. Supreme Court last year claiming that the college is violating his right to free speech by investigating him and proposing disciplinary measures. The college has yet to file a response.

A hearing date for Hoffe has yet to be scheduled. He remains a fully licensed doctor in B.C., with no conditions on his practice.

With files from Lyndsay Duncombe and Georgie Smyth