In the December 10 View, Our Time Press encouraged readers to get vaccinated. Within the last two weeks a lot has happened. The best news, a new vaccine was announced. The bad news: it got into the bad hands of an apparently unscrupulous agency. An agency that sent out a message about, “The Newest Healthcare Revolution!” via social media, December 16 at 3:46pm. It announced on its Facebook page, “@ParCare Health and Medical Center has been authorized to distribute the #CovidVaccine for people who fall under certain criteria.”
ParCare also noted that the vaccines were available on a “first come, first served basis.” It linked to a Google Form asking patients to reserve a spot to get vaccinated.
Now, State Attorney General Tish James, the State Department of Health and the New York State Police and other law enforcers are probing ParCare, which has an office at 1577 Fulton Street, near Albany (photo) in Central Brooklyn. The criminal investigation centers on ParCare “fraudulently” obtaining the COVID-19 vaccine; the misappropriation of the vaccine, and the agency’s diversion of the vaccine to “to facilities in other parts of the state in violation of state guidelines and diverted it to members of the public.”
According to state protocols, essential health care workers, nursing home residents and staff — elders and those on the frontlines – are supposed to be first in line to get the vaccine.
Community activist Joe Gonzalez, a contributing field reporter for Kings County Politics and recurring contributor to Our Time Press, was the first to raise the question in a call to Our Time Press, in a voice mail message: “As a resident of Bedford Stuyvesant, I’m concerned about how ParCare got into my community and, once here, how it so quickly and easily began to divert medicine, medical information and other resources intended for Central Brooklyn to upstate New York?”
Those are just two of the questions that concern Attorney General Letitia James and her office who issued this statement yesterday:
“My office is launching an investigation into ParCare over allegations that it wrongfully distributed and administered COVID-19 vaccines. In order for the vaccine to be most effective in protecting our communities, we must all follow the same distribution plan. We will not tolerate any attempts to circumvent that process.”
New York investigates healthcare provider that ‘fraudulently obtained 2,800 doses of Moderna vaccine and gave them to the public before healthcare workers’
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 received authorization from the state despite not being officially listed.
‘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.
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.
‘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.
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.’