Doses of the coronavirus vaccine may have been wrongfully obtained and distributed throughout parts of New York, the state's top doctor said Saturday.
Dr. Howard Zucker, commissioner for the state's department of health, says his office received reports of ParCare Community Health Network "fraudulently" obtaining the vaccine and transferring it to "facilities in other parts of the state."
The vaccine doses allegedly diverted for "members of the public" circumvent the state's plan to prioritize the inoculation of frontline healthcare professionals and residents of long-term care facilities, Zucker said. New York's initial rollout of the vaccine it still limited to hospitals and nursing homes.
ParCare Community Health Network - identified by the state as a provider in Orange County - services branches throughout a number of Brooklyn neighborhoods and the Upper East Side.
On Dec. 16, the company offered doses of the vaccine on a "first come first serve basis" through a social media post on Facebook. The post included a sign-up form for the elderly, people at high-risk, and those with underlying conditions.
One week later, ParCare shared photos of the Moderna vaccine on Twitter, saying the company had received thousands of doses.
The DOH said it wouldn't comment beyond Zucker's Saturday statement.
"We take this very seriously and DOH will be assisting State Police in a criminal investigation into this matter. Anyone found to have knowingly participated in this scheme will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law," Zucker said in the Saturday press release.
A statement from ParCare acknowledged the department of health's inquiry and assured cooperation while the state investigates.
"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," the statement read, in part.
At the end of October, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a partnership with ParCare to increase the availability of rapid testing in several locations throughout Borough Park and Williamsburg.