New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday that the state attorney general’s office will investigate allegations that ParCare Community Health Network fraudulently obtained and diverted coronavirus vaccines.
He also warned that even recipients of an unsanctioned shot could face penalties. ParCare operates clinics in Kiryas Joel, Brooklyn and Manhattan.
“If you received the vaccine and you knew you shouldn’t have, you could be prosecuted,” Cuomo said during his daily Coronavirus update. “The vaccine is a valuable commodity.”
He also said Monday that he planned to sign an executive order that would establish a $1 million fine for vaccine-related fraud. He would also allow the revocation of state licenses from violators, including doctors and nurses who administer shots obtained fraudulently.
“The New York State Police believe there is enough evidence to commence a criminal investigation and that’s why they referred it to the attorney general,” said Cuomo. “(AG Letitia James) is going to take it on and make it a priority. We will not tolerate any fraud in the vaccination process.”
ParCare has acknowledged receiving 2,300 doses of the Moderna vaccine that were shipped to the network’s Kiryas Joel clinic, then redistributed to the group’s other clinics. Those vaccines were instead supposed to go to front-line health-care workers and nursing home residents, according to state distribution guidelines.
The Times of Israel described ParCare Community Health as network of health clinics owned by an ultra-Orthodox man and serving a number of ultra-Orthodox communities in New York City and Kiryas Joel.
‘ParCare has proactively returned its vaccines’
In a prepared statement issued Sunday and first reported by the New York Post, ParCare Community Health Network insisted it followed all proper procedures to get the Moderna vaccines and was approved to administer the shots by both the state Department of Health and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The company said it “provided the documentation regarding the proper receipt of the vaccines to the NYS DOH.”
“In an effort to fully cooperate with NYS DOH, ParCare has proactively returned its vaccines pending the Department’s review,” according to the statement.
“We are confident the end result of that review will show that ParCare at all times exerted best efforts to comply with all NYS DOH requirements and will allow us to continue to achieve our number one goal of providing these critical vaccines to the New Yorkers who need them most.”
A company spokesperson told the Post that ParCare had administered 869 of 2,300 doses it received through an order placed by the DOH, and had handed over the remainder to the state.
ParCare said: “We will do everything in our power to make sure that the state understands that our patients are our priority and that everyone receives their second dose accordingly.”
State Health Department
In a statement released just the day before, New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said he had received reports that ParCare Community Health Network may have fraudulently obtained the vaccine and diverted it to other facilities to be given to members of the public. The state has prioritized front-line health care workers, long-term care residents and staffers to receive the vaccine first.
The first vaccine in the state was given to a critical care nurse in Queens on Dec. 14.
“We take this very seriously and DOH will be assisting State Police in a criminal investigation into this matter,” Zucker said. “Anyone found to have knowingly participated in this scheme will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”