Ohio doctor who claimed vaccines cause magnetism has license reinstated

By Stephanie Srakocic | Fact-checked by Davi Sherman
Published May 24, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • Physician Sherri Tenpenny made national news when she claimed the COVID-19 vaccine caused magnetism during 2021 Ohio legislative hearings.

  • Dr. Tenpenny reportedly refused to cooperate with a subsequent state board investigation, resulting in the suspension of her license in 2023. 

  • Although Dr. Tenpenny has remained outspoken against vaccines, her license was reinstated in April 2024.

Ohio physician Sherri Tenpenny, MD, first made national headlines when she testified against the use of COVID-19 vaccines before Ohio state lawmakers in 2021.[] Dr. Tenpenny spoke at the request of Republican State Representative Jennifer Gross in support of Gross’s Vaccine Choice and Anti-Discrimination Act.[] Had the legislation passed, it would have dramatically reduced the state’s vaccine mandates. 

The proposed act failed to become law, but Dr. Tenpenny continued to speak out against the COVID-19 vaccine. In the summer of 2023, the Ohio State Board of Medicine launched an investigation into Dr. Tenpenny, suspending her medical license. Just under a year later, in April 2024, the board voted to restore Dr. Tenpenny’s license.[] 

Dr. Tenpenny’s history of vaccine opposition 

Dr. Tenpenny has an established history of vaccine opposition. Her book, “Saying no to Vaccines: A Resource Guide for All Ages,” was published in 2008. On her personal website, Dr. Tenpenny calls herself “The Original Voice of Vaccine Research, Truth, and Education.”[] Dr. Tenpenny hosts a variety of content designed to spread her message, including a suite of paid courses with titles such as, “Are vaccines safe?” and, “Covid series: The Myth of the Mask.” She is also the host of multiple podcasts and has been a guest on podcasts with similar views, such as Alex Jones’s “Infowars.” 

Dr. Tenpenny owns the Tenpenny Integrative Medical Center in the Cleveland suburb of Middleburg Heights, OH.[] The Center offers treatments such as pain management, women’s health care, allergy elimination, and pediatric care. The Center also has a merchandise shop that sells items in line with Dr. Tenpenny’s anti-vaccine messaging. For instance, a magnet available for purchase reads, “No forced vaccines. Not in America.” A children’s t-shirt reads “Look at me! I’m vaccine free.”  

Throughout the pandemic, Tenpenny was outspoken about the vaccine. She was quoted in articles, spoke on podcasts, and continued putting out her own content. Notably, in 2021, Dr. Tenpenny claimed, “Vaccines are now, and people, listen to this closely, always have been a method of mass destruction, a method of depopulation.”[] 

Going viral in 2021

As a result of her messaging, Dr. Tenpenny was well-known to people with similar views of the COVID-19 vaccine. In June 2021, Ohio State Rep. Jennifer Gross reached out to Dr. Tenpenny and asked for her support of the proposed Vaccine Choice and Anti-Discrimination Act. Gross was reportedly insistent on having Tenpenny’s testimony during the hearings. The bill would have prohibited hospitals, nursing facilities, universities, employers, and insurance companies from requiring, incentivizing, or even asking about vaccination. 

In her testimony, Dr. Tenpenny made numerous claims about vaccines that went viral. She linked vaccines to diseases and alleged that they cause magnetization. 

“I’m sure you’ve seen the pictures all over the internet of people who have had these shots and now they’re magnetized. They can put a key on their forehead and it sticks,” Dr. Tenpenny claimed[] She went on to allege that vaccines had a connection to 5G cell towers.  

“There have been people who have long suspected there’s an interface, yet to be defined, an interface between what’s being injected in these shots and all of the 5G towers,” Dr. Tenpenny said. 

Investigated by the state board

The state medical board opened an investigation into Dr. Tenpenny a month after she gave her testimony. Dr. Tenpenny reportedly refused to cooperate with investigators and continued to spread her views about vaccinations during the time she was under investigation. Her license was indefinitely suspended in August 2023.[] 

In the months since the board’s decision, Dr. Tenpenny has reportedly taken steps toward restoration. She has paid a fine, completed an application for reinstatement, and has been cooperating with the board’s investigation.  

Her license was reinstated in a 7-2 vote. Voting member Betty Montgomery, a former Republican attorney general and auditor, called her vote a “reluctant yes.” Two physicians on the board voted against Dr. Tenpenny’s license restoration. 

Physicians and misinformation

In December 2021, the de Beaumont Foundation published a report entitled “Disinformation Doctors: Licensed to Mislead.  The report features Dr. Tenpenny and other physicians across the country who have spread misinformation about COVID-19 or alleged that vaccines cause harm to patients. In the report, the authors state that this type of health misinformation spread by physicians directly affects public health.[]

Physicians who’ve made such allegations often claim they have a right to spread this information as protected free speech. However, the right to hold and discuss any belief is a right as a private citizen; it is not necessarily the right of physicians when speaking as medical authorities. 

For instance, if a physician doesn’t order a test, prescribe a medication, or perform a procedure, thereby resulting in negative consequences for the patient, there can be negative repercussions for the physician, including the loss of their license. It’s unlikely that a physician could successfully argue their case based on their personal feelings about the test, medication, or procedure, especially without any scientific evidence to support their case. 

Scientific evidence has proven that vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccine, are safe.[] Claims to the contrary are dangerous, and can be confusing for the public; they can also erode public trust in healthcare providers. The 2021 report argues that state medical boards have a responsibility to investigate, and hold accountable, any physicians who make false claims.[] 

What this means for you

Misinformation spread rapidly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Social media was a common source of misinformation, but physicians across the country also added to COVID-19 fears and vaccine hesitancy. Anti-vaccine claims are dangerous and can add to public fear. Reassuring patients that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective can help.

Share with emailShare to FacebookShare to LinkedInShare to Twitter