A health care provider in New York is being investigated after being accused of ‘fraudulently’ obtaining COVID-19 vaccines and distributing them to members of the public.
In a statement released Saturday, the state Department of Health revealed they had received reports that Parcare Community Health Network based in Orange County had broken with New York’s plan to administer the vaccine to frontline healthcare workers, and nursing home residents and staffers first.
The statement said the network ‘may have fraudulently obtained COVID-19 vaccine, transferred it to facilities in other parts of the state in violation of state guidelines and diverted it to members of the public’.
Parcare had posted images to social media of their centers receiving hundreds of doses of the Moderna vaccine and claimed they had recieved authorization from the state despite not being officially listed.
State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker, pictured, revealed Saturday that Orange County based Parcare Community Health Network is being investigated for allegedly acquiring up to 2,800 doses of the Moderna vaccine by fraudulent means
This would be the first case of vaccine fraud in New York since the rollout began on December 15. Pictured, a nurse prepares a COVID-19 Moderna vaccine for a worker of the NYFD
On December 21, Parcare posted image of their Moderna vaccine shipment
‘We take this very seriously and DOH will be assisting State Police in a criminal investigation into this matter,’ said State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker.
‘Anyone found to have knowingly participated in this scheme will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law,’ he added.
The Parcare network, which has locations in Brooklyn, Orange County and Manhattan, is not among the facilities listed as a state-designated vaccination hub.
Yet on a Facebook page linked to one of its Brooklyn locations, they posted on December 16 to say that they had been ‘authorized to distribute the #CovidVaccine for people who fall under certain criteria’.
They urged patients to register with them for a vaccine if they were considered high risk or had underlying health conditions.
On December 21, they posted another update stating that they had just received thousands of doses of the vaccine to their centers.
‘One small injection can make a difference for the entire community! our @ParCare Centers received thousands of #COVID19 #Moderna #vaccines this morning,’ they wrote.
‘Thanks to @UPS and our dedicated staff who woke up early to receive this lifesaving shipment #healthcareheroes.’
BoroPark24 reported that the network’s Borough Park location had that morning received 600 Moderna vaccines, while the balance of their 2,800 doses was sent to their other four locations.
Parcare posted on December 16 to say that they had been ‘authorized to distribute the #CovidVaccine for people who fall under certain criteria’ but are not officially listed
Parcare shared this image to Facebook of their Moderna vaccine shipment
‘Hundreds of patients were already vaccinated today, and people are still coming in,’ Gary Schlesinger, the CEO and president of ParCare told the publication, adding that they had hoped to vaccinate 500 people on that first day.
‘You have to be on that list,’ said Schlesinger. ‘Once you are on the list, we have to vet to make sure that you are either a healthcare worker, are over 60, or have underlying conditions.
‘We will not give the vaccine to people who are not eligible for this first batch of the shots.’
He had also claimed that the center would continue to receive more doses of the vaccine despite not been an assigned distributor.
‘Hopefully in another week or two, we will have enough to give more people, but right now this is what it is,’ he said, claiming to the publication that they were able to acquire the doses because they are larger in square footage than other clinics.
According to its website, the provider is ‘a multi-specialty center providing such services as primary care, internal medicine, dermatology, physical therapy, and pediatrics; helping our patients to maintain optimal health and prevent potential diseases’.
This would be the first case of fraud regarding the vaccine rollout in New York since the distribution began on December 15.
It is unclear what penalties Parcare could face if found guilty of fraud.
Moderna was contacted for comment but had not yet responded.
View of Parcare Health & Medical Center in Monroe in Orange County. The network also has locations in Brooklyn and in Manhattan that received doses of the vaccine
As of Wednesday, the last time that an update was given, 89,000 New Yorkers have now received their first COVID-19 vaccine dose.
According to a statement, 22,000 doses were administered in 90 nursing home facilities.
On Saturday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said that the state is ‘vaccinating New Yorkers as fast as possible’.
‘But getting to the levels of immunity we need is a long-term effort,’ he added.
‘New Yorkers brought the state’s infection rate from the nation’s highest to one of the lowest, and they should be commended for that. Now we need to keep up the good work.
‘We will ultimately be victorious in the battle with COVID-19, but New Yorkers have a long journey ahead,’ Cuomo said.
‘The holiday season is a time to celebrate and reflect, but it brings the potential for increased spread if we let our guard down. It’s vital that New Yorkers celebrate smart, wash their hands, wear masks and socially distance this holiday season.’
On Thursday, New York Senator Chuck Schumer said that upsate New York, separate from funds given to New York City, will receive about $800 million to help ensure the coronavirus vaccine and other coronavirus care efforts will be available.
‘The biggest thing we want to ensure about the coronavirus vaccine is universal access—no barriers—for New Yorkers,’ said Schumer.
‘Part of the way we do that, and to ensure a free vaccine is available here in New York, centers on the federal funds we just secured in the COVID relief bill voted on late [Tuesday] night.
‘Communities throughout Upstate will get a sizable share of over $775 million dollars to do these things, and I am here to say the money is on the way, and to get the word out about what happens next for localities as they ramp up with distribution.’
There were 10,806 new COVID-19 cases reported in New York on Saturday as the state’s positivity rate remained at 5.36 percent.
There were 122 new fatalities, bringing the death toll to 29,396.
On Saturday, there were 6,884 people in New York hospitalized with COVID-19, 1,129 of which were in ICU.
Nationwide, 18.8million Americans have been infected with coronavirus and there have been 331,116 deaths.