A New York city-based healthcare provider, the ParCare Community Health Network, is under state investigation for unauthorized distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, according to state officials.
ParCare provides primary and internal care, and other medical services in its six locations in New York City. The healthcare network serves many of the city's Orthodox Jewish communities.
According to The New York Times, ParCare received 2,300 doses of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine and administered more than 850 of them.
ParCare has since returned its remaining allotment of vaccines to the state, according to a press release from the healthcare network.
A healthcare network in New York is under state investigation for unauthorized distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and violating the state's vaccination plans, according to state officials on Saturday.
In a press release, New York State Health Commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker, said that "the State Department of Health has been made aware of reports that Parcare Community Health Network, an Orange County provider, 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 - contrary to the state's plan to administer it first to frontline healthcare workers, as well as nursing home residents and staffers."
ParCare provides primary and internal care and other medical services to six New York City-based locations. The healthcare network has a large constituency of Orthodox Jewish patients and previously partnered with the city to provide free COVID-19 testing and resources for the Orthodox Jewish community.
According to The New York Times, ParCare received 2,300 doses of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine, more than 850 of which were administered, the newspaper reported. But while the clinics legally obtained the vaccine, state authorities have accused ParCare of violating New York guidelines as to who gets vaccinated first.
On December 16, ParCare announced on its Facebook page that it had received a limited number of vaccines that would be available on a "first come first serve basis." The post further noted that the vaccine would be reserved only for people who are elderly, have underlying conditions, or are considered "high risk."
As per New York state guidelines, the first and only members of the state to receive the vaccine must be:
High-risk hospital workers
Nursing home residents
Nursing home staff
Following these groups, EMS workers, coroners, and other healthcare workers and hospital staff are permitted access to the first vaccine allocation.
Rabbi Herschel Schachter, a prominent Orthodox rabbi in New York City, was one of the 850+ people who received a coronavirus vaccine through ParCare. He told the Jerusalem Post he and a fellow rabbi asked before receiving the vaccine if it would be legal - both rabbis were assured that it would be.
"We were led to believe that it was," Schacter said. "If either of us would have been told that this was inappropriate, that it wasn't legitimate, we would not have done that."
In a coronavirus briefing on Monday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo that "based on how we know the vaccine was transferred, stored, and administered, we believe there are multiple crimes that could be charged." He further stated that the investigation will be handed off to New York Attorney General Letitia James.
Following inquiries by the state, ParCare said in a statement that it has already returned its remaining vaccine allotment to New York authorities.
"We have proactively returned the vaccines pending the Department's review," ParCare said. "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."
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