NYS Investigating ParCare Community Health Network Over Its Handling Of First Round Of COVID-19 Vaccine
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Mayor Bill de Blasio says more than 50,000 New Yorkers have already been vaccinated against COVID-19.
But as CBS2's Lisa Rozner reported Sunday, one health network is under scrutiny.
ParCare Community Health Network has been known to be a partner with the city and state in getting out public health messaging to Orthodox Jewish communities.
But now, state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker says a criminal investigation of the company is underway.
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There are six locations across Brooklyn, Manhattan and Orange County.
Zucker said in a statement that ParCare, "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."
Mark Meyer Appel said he got it there. The 68-year-old is diabetic and regularly distributes food to those in need through the Bridge Multicultural and Advocacy Project.
"I kept calling. I filled out the application, which was a lot of questions about my health," Appel said.
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State guidelines call for the first round of vaccines to go to front-line health care workers, and residents and staff in long-term care facilities.
But a post on Dec. 16 on ParCare's Facebook page said it's available "on a first-come, first-serve basis."
"Every dose that goes to someone else besides a health care professional means that one less health care professional can get the vaccine," said Dr. Bruce Y. Lee of the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health.
A ParCare spokesperson said the company followed all Department of Health procedures for obtaining the Moderna vaccine and was approved by the state and Centers for Disease Control for distribution. That person also provided Rozner with the email from the state health department allocating 2,300 doses, and a packing slip sending the Moderna vaccine shipments to its Monroe, New York location.
ParCare said the state gave verbal approval to distribute those to its other locations.
Dr. Lee said the guidelines need to be publicized more aggressively.
"Right now, you're hearing all kinds of stories throughout the country about people cutting in line, people getting phone calls or texts saying, 'Hey, vaccines are available. Come here in two hours.' It gives people the sense that there's some type of market going on," Lee said.
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"I don't see any laws in the state of New York that would prohibit a local provider in a community that's been hit hardest. Brooklyn has been hit hardest," Appel said. "They were the first ones to be closed down and converted into a red zone. So when it comes to closing them down, it's okay when it comes to giving a vaccination. All of a sudden everybody has questions if it's legal or not."
Rozner asked the state to clarify the guidelines, especially for those who are high risk -- but not in a facility -- but no one got back to her.
The City Department of Health told CBS2 residents should contact their primary care provider if they're not sure what priority group they fall under.
Amid the investigation, ParCare said it has given all of its remaining doses back to the state and hopes to work with the state to ensure it provides the second dose for patients.
CBS2's Lisa Rozner contributed to this report
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