New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo revealed Monday that the office of the state’s attorney general will be investigating whether a health care clinic operating within the Empire State fraudulently obtained and distributed doses of a COVID-19 vaccine to the general public.
Although Cuomo did not offer details of the investigation, he did indicate during a COVID-19 briefing that the allegations involved the ParCare Community Health Network, which serves as a health provider in the state’s Orange County. Facilities can also be found in New York City’s Manhattan and Brooklyn boroughs.
“[Reports emerged over the weekend of] possible fraud by a health care provider, and you’re going to see more and more of this - the vaccine is a valuable commodity,” Cuomo acknowledged. “You’ll have fraud in the vaccine process; it's an almost inevitable function of human nature and of the marketplace.”
“Vaccines are valuable, and there will be people who break the law,” Cuomo stressed. He added that based on how the vaccines the facility received were transferred, stored and administered, “there are multiple crimes that could be charged.”
The governor went on to note that an investigation had been recently launched by the New York State Police, but that the probe would be referred to the New York attorney general for further investigation. “[Attorney General Letitia James] will take it on and make it a priority,” Cuomo said.
Additionally, the Democratic governor explained that he would be signing an executive order to make clear there would be severe consequences for individuals and facilities who attempt to commit fraud with regards to the vaccines. The order will enact a fine of up to $1 million and may revoke medical licenses for practices within the state that violate COVID-19 vaccine standards set by the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH).
“We are very serious about this,” he said. “We will find out, and it’s not worth risking your license, as well as a possible civil and criminal penalty.”
At present, New York State is only allowing for the COVID-19 vaccines to be administered to health care workers and nursing home residents and staffers; however, the state is expected to expand its program this week to urgent care employees and residents of addiction facilities.
To date, roughly 140,000 New Yorkers have received the first shot of the two-part vaccines. Cuomo stated that an additional 139,400 Pfizer vaccines and 119,600 doses of the Moderna vaccine would be made available this week.
The ParCare Community Health Network came under the public microscope over the weekend after New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker released a statement disclosing that the company “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.”
Notably, the NYSDOH had been rationing vaccine doses due to its momentarily short supplies. Citing a company spokesperson, the New York Post reported ParCare had administered 869 of the 2,300 Moderna doses it had received following an order placed with the NYSDOH, and has since “proactively returned” its remaining doses amid the criminal probe.