Zev Zelenko, former Kiryas Joel doctor who developed controversial COVID protocol, dies

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Dr. Vladimir 'Zev' Zelenko, who drew then-President Trump's attention with his devotion to Hydroxychloroquine as a COVID treatment, died on Thursday, June 30, at age 48. Zelenko had previously announced a terminal cancer diagnosis in 2018.

His organization, Z-Freedom Foundation, announced his passing.

Dr. Vladimir 'Zev' Zelenko
Dr. Vladimir 'Zev' Zelenko

At one point, Zelenko drew the attention of federal prosecutors in 2020 when they saw an errant email that claimed the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had greenlighted a study of his COVID protocol, even though that had not occurred. Zelenko said it was a misunderstanding.

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Zelenko had developed a combination treatment of Hydroxychloroquine, antibiotics and zinc, which he dubbed the Zelenko Protocol.

Trump and his key adviser, Rudolph Giuliani, publicly lauded the doctor's work. Trump, during his own COVID battle, had said he was taking Hydroxychloroquine.

Zelenko drew rebuke from leaders of the Kiryas Joel village and community in March 2020 after he predicted that 90% of the KJ population would end up with COVID. The Hasidic and Orthodox Jewish communities had already faced stigma from the appearance of early cases, and they publicly asked Zelenko to stop posting videos online.

“We the undersigned institutions strongly believe that the predictions presented by Dr. Zelenko have been proven false and are not supported by the overall medical establishment, specifically in his wild conclusions as to the spread of the virus in our community,” stated a letter from community leaders, a rare public statement from Hasidic leadership.

The Orange County health commissioner also disagreed with Zelenko's predictions about widespread COVID.

Zelenko's dedication to Hydroxychloroquine also drew criticism. The FDA continues to warn against its use, outside the hospital setting, due to heart rhythm issues, and reiterated in January 2022 that it had not been shown as safe or effective in the treatment of COVID.

Dr. Vladimir 'Zev' Zelenko speaks to a large crowd at ReAwaken America Tour at Trinity Gospel Temple in Canton, Ohio, Friday, February 18, 2022. Submitted/Julie Vennitti Botos
Dr. Vladimir 'Zev' Zelenko speaks to a large crowd at ReAwaken America Tour at Trinity Gospel Temple in Canton, Ohio, Friday, February 18, 2022. Submitted/Julie Vennitti Botos

Zelenko was born in Kyiv, Ukraine, in 1973. His family immigrated to the U.S. in 1977. He attended Hofstra University and then SUNY Buffalo School of Medicine.

He is survived by his wife, Rinat; their two children and six children from a previous marriage; his parents, and a brother.

A funeral was held on Friday in Florida; shiva was being observed in the family home in Boca Raton.

Staff writer Chris McKenna contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared on Times Herald-Record: Obituary: Dr. Zelenko, pushed controversial COVID med backed by Trump