The family of a Mission Viejo mom who died from COVID-19 announced plans Wednesday to sue Kaiser Permanente, alleging her caregivers denied her a vaccine and falsely told her the shot contained a “live virus,” then wouldn’t give her monoclonal antibody treatment when she got infected.
Kaiser Permanente officials, while declining to comment on the circumstances of Nerissa Regnier’s death, insisted they are committed to providing the best care available to all patients. And they rejected allegations that Regnier was told she could not have a COVID vaccine because it contained a “live virus.”
“On behalf of our physicians and care givers at Kaiser Permanente, we extend our deepest condolences to the family of Nerissa Regnier for the loss of their loved one,” according to a Kaiser statement. “This global pandemic has tragically affected so many families.
“While we cannot comment on personal health information or the specific circumstances of this case, our physicians and health care professionals are dedicated to ensuring every individual treated at Kaiser Permanente receives the highest quality health care appropriate for their situation. Treatments for COVID-19 continue to rapidly evolve, and in consultation with each patient, we prescribe care that is intended to provide the best clinical outcomes based on current knowledge and their individual needs.
“Additionally, we have clearly communicated to our members, patients and the public that none of the available COVID-19 vaccines contain the live virus and that they are safe and effective. Kaiser Permanente has been consistent since vaccines first became available that we are committed to administering vaccines safely and equitably in accordance with all federal and state guidelines.”
Relatives of the 45-year-old Regnier, who died Dec. 16, have sent the healthcare provider an intent to sue and their attorneys were working to file the lawsuit this week. On Saturday, a “celebration of life” event will be held for Regnier.
“It’s devastating to say the least,” Regnier’s best friend, Dana Allen, told City News Service.
She said the pair lived in the same neighborhood and met when they were fourth-graders.
“She was smart, successful, driven, funny and giving to the world,” Allen said. “She had (multiple sclerosis), but would never let anybody know it. It was never going to be a crutch for her. She was living life to the fullest.”
While she was hospitalized, Regnier was so disappointed that many other patients were unable to have FaceTime conversations with their family that she lent them one of her two phones so they could call family, Allen said.
“One day she was crying her eyes out and said, `When I get out we’re starting a nonprofit. Do you know how many people can’t FaceTime their friends and families?”’ Allen recalled.
Regnier, a realtor, wanted to start a nonprofit that would provide tablets and smart phones to patients who could not afford one, Allen said.
“During her last 100 days when she was almost dying in the hospital she was FaceTiming me that she was going to get out of there and live her life to the fullest,” Allen said. “She was such a fighter.”
Regnier is survived by her husband, Devin Regnier, and her three children, ages 14, 16 and 29.
“She was a very healthy mother of three managing her MS,” said attorney Annee Della Donna.
In February, Regnier was placed on a new regimen of medication for her MS, which suppressed her immune system, Della Donna said.
When she inquired about getting one of the COVID-19 vaccines, she was told she could not have it because it contained a “live virus,” which is false, Della Donna said.
“When you’re immunocompromised you need the COVID-19 vaccine,” Della Donna said.
She asked for it seven times over the next six months and was told each time she could not receive a “live” vaccine, the attorney said.
“They keep telling her no, no, no,” Della Donna said.
Regnier finally emailed her neurologist in August asking him about the vaccines and he told her she needed to get inoculated, Della Donna said.
“Two days later she runs over to Kaiser to get the COVID vaccine and she’s feeling symptoms so they test her and she’s got COVID,” Della Donna said.
Then she was given antibiotics, another no-no, Della Donna alleged. She was also given steroids, which is also not recommended and can be harmful, Della Donna said.
At some point while at Kaiser’s hospital in Irvine, her husband had her discharged when she was denied monoclonal antibody treatment and drove her to Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, where she was told it was too late for the treatment, attorney Eric Dubin said.
Regnier was stabilized at Hoag and then taken back to Kaiser, where she later died, Della Donna said.
“Twice, this husband relied on Kaiser for medical guidance and twice they failed him,” Dubin said. “It’s a devastating case.”
Regnier was a “healthy mom,” who was “very active in the community,” Della Donna said. She had her MS under control with two infusions of medicine a year.
Della Donna said the family held a news conference Wednesday announcing the lawsuit because, “This is a public service announcement. If you’re told you shouldn’t get the vaccine because it’s a live vaccine that’s just flat-out wrong. And everybody whose immune system is down needs to get the vaccine. That’s why we’re doing this. We don’t want this poor woman’s life to be taken in vain.”