State health officials are investigating whether an Orange County-based health care facility violated guidelines for the distribution of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine, by sending it to its NYC-based network facilities that then allegedly administered it to members of the general public.
In a brief statement Saturday from state Health Department commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker, investigators are looking into reports that Parcare Community Health Network, with locations in Brooklyn, Orange County and Manhattan, “may have fraudulently obtained [the] COVID-19 vaccine [and] transferred it to facilities in other parts of the state.” The alleged diversion by Parcare Community Health Network violates "the state's plan to administer [the vaccine] first to frontline healthcare workers, as well as nursing home residents and staffers," Zucker said.
"We take this very seriously and DOH will be assisting State Police in a criminal investigation into this matter," Zucker added. "Anyone found to have knowingly participated in this scheme will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law."
The state’s investigation came five days after BoroPark News, a hyperlocal news publication, published a story reporting a Brooklyn-based Parcare Community Health Network office was offering hundreds of the two-dose vaccine to the elderly, those considered high risk or with “underlying health conditions.” According to the publication, the network has locations in Williamsburg, Crown Heights, Bensonhurst, and East Harlem, with 2800 vaccines available.
Gary Schlesinger, the CEO and president of the health network, told the publication that more vaccines will be arriving every day. “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," he told the publication.
A photo that went with the article shows two men each holding a box of the Moderna vaccine.
In a statement sent late Saturday night, Parcare said that "during these unprecedented times, we have striven to provide critical healthcare services and administer COVID-19 vaccinations to those qualified to receive them under the New York State Department of Health's guidelines, which includes frontline healthcare workers and first responders... As we actively cooperate with the New York State Department of Health on this matter, we will continue to perform top-quality healthcare services to help New York come out of this pandemic.”
It's unclear what penalties Parcare Community Health Network would face if found guilty of fraud.
A link to a Google Form in the BoroPark News article asking clients to provide their insurance information and state if they're over 75 years old or a first responder.
The COVID-19 vaccine by Moderna arrived to New York State last week, a week after Pfizer was given emergency clearance to deliver the vaccine to the Empire State. Frontline health care workers are supposed to receive the vaccine first, in accordance with federal guidelines.
Parcare did not immediately respond to a request for comment through its answering service.
This story was updated on December 27th with a statement from Parcare.