New York healthcare network under investigation for fraudulently distributing COVID-19 vaccines
12/30/2020 // Cassie B. // Views

Health officials in New York State are looking into whether a health network based in Brooklyn obtained and distributed Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine fraudulently.

New York State Health Department Commissioner Howard Zucker said in a statement that ParCare Community Health Network, which runs facilities in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Orange County, “may have fraudulently obtained [the] COVID-19 vaccine [and] transferred it to facilities in other parts of the state” that then went on to administer it to the public.

This diversion interrupts the state’s plans to vaccinate nursing home residents and frontline healthcare workers before other individuals, Zucker stated. He said that they were taking the matter very seriously and that the state police would be helping them carry out a criminal investigation into the matter. He added that those found to have knowingly participated in the scheme would be held fully accountable.

According to ParCare’s CEO and president, Gary Schlesinger, the group’s five Brooklyn offices had 2,800 vaccines available initially, with more arriving every day. Those who lived near those offices were allowed to sign up for the shots at the ParCare website. They offered the doses through a social media post on Facebook on what they termed a “first come, first serve basis” and shared photos of the jabs on their Twitter account.

They distributed 689 doses of the vaccine and have returned most of the rest, placing those who were given the first jab in a difficult position as it is a two-dose vaccine. The second dose is given 28 days after the first, and there are some concerns that these people may not be able to get their follow-up vaccines.


Gov. Cuomo threatens fines, license revocations

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has threatened to fine any companies and workers who commit vaccine fraud as much as $1 million dollars. He also said that healthcare companies who violate the rules could lose their license to practice in the state.

Zucker said that ParCare in Orange County got the vaccine under false pretenses and then moved it to a different part of the state, where they gave it to people who are not on the priority list. While ParCare is currently the only organization under criminal investigation, Cuomo has said that those who received the vaccine and should not have been given a dose because of the priority rules may also face charges.

ParCare may be facing other charges as well, with Cuomo announcing, "Based on how we know the vaccine was transferred, stored and administered, we believe there are multiple crimes that could be charged."

The New York Post revealed that ParCare has been experiencing financial problems, with an audit listing a net operating deficit of $1.4 million in 2018. A Brooklyn woman with respiratory problems who received the first dose of the vaccine from ParCare said she paid $150 for it.

The news comes as the European Union’s vaccine rollout gets underway with the aim of inoculating more than 450 million people. Like in New York, the first vaccines will be offered to healthcare workers and nursing home residents and staff. All EU countries now have the vaccines in their possession, and most member states have said the vaccine will reach the general public by spring.

It is hard to believe that so many people are so desperate to get an untested vaccine that they are willing to get it from dubious sources and face potential fines and criminal charges. In a September Pew Research poll, only 51 percent of Americans said they would be willing to get the vaccine. Its long-term effects are completely unknown, and some of those who have received it have been experiencing negative side effects. What kind of problems will we see as more and more people get the shot?

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