NEW YORK – A representative of the Orthodox-owned ParCare Community Health network, which is under investigation for allegedly distributing COVID-19 vaccines to members of the public, told Haaretz on Monday that the State’s claim that they obtained the vaccines “fraudulently” is false.
In response to the incident, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced he would sign an executive order increasing penalties on health care providers who intentionally disregard the state's vaccine prioritization protocols.
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"Anyone who engages in fraud is going to be held accountable,” Cuomo said at his daily briefing.
The Executive Order, which the governor is expected to sign on Monday, says that providers who knowingly administer the vaccine to individuals outside of the state's prioritization protocols could be fined up to $1 million and have all of their State licenses revoked.
“If you engage in fraud on this vaccine we will remove your license to practice in the State of New York,” he said. “So, we are very serious about this and this is the type of fraud that will be uncovered on the old adage that people talk.”
The New York State Department of Health announced an investigation into ParCare Community Health network – which serves a number of Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn and upstate New York – on Saturday for supposedly offering the COVID-19 vaccines to members of the general public, against state guidelines mandating that only frontline health care workers as well as nursing home residents and staff can get vaccinated.
New York State health commissioner Howard Zucker said the clinics may have “fraudulently obtained the vaccine, transferred it to facilities in other parts of the state in violation of state guidelines and diverted it to members of the public.”
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“Anyone found to have knowingly participated in this scheme will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” Zucker added.
But according to ParCare, they did not obtain the vaccines “fraudulently.” The network wrote in a statement that the NYS Department of Health itself had approved ParCare’s distribution of the Moderna vaccine.
According to a copy of the original packing slip dated December 21, as many as 2,300 doses of the COVID-19 vaccines were sent to ParCare’s facility in Monroe, upstate New York, by the Health Department itself. In an email sent to ParCare representatives on December 14, New York State Department of Health also confirmed that the same number of vaccine doses will be delivered to their facility “in the first wave of shipments of this vaccine.”
A ParCare representative told Haaretz that the State’s claim that the network “transferred it to facilities in other parts of the state in violation of state guidelines” is also false. According to the representative, ParCare was given permission from the DOH to transfer the doses before doing so.
“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,” an official ParCare statement said. “Our record of working hand-in-hand with the City and State of New York is second-to-none.”
The network also said that they have returned the remaining vaccines pending the Health Department’s review, “in an effort to fully cooperate.”
“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,” the statement concluded.