NY plans crackdown on vaccine fraud as rollout continues
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a crackdown on potential vaccine fraud as state officials hope to provide an initial vaccine dose to 400,000 people by the end of the week.
Cuomo, a Democrat, has touted New York’s vaccination efforts even as the nation as a whole is short of reaching the federal government’s goal of injecting 20 million Americans with the first dose by the end of December. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says nearly 2 million people have received an initial vaccine done as of Dec. 26.
The nation reported about 1.3 million new COVID-19 cases over the past seven days, including roughly 75,000 in New York. The number of new cases has flattened over the past week in New York, which is reporting more cases per-capita than 30 other states.
Hospitals in New York have reported 2,800 deaths of people who tested positive for COVID-19 so far in December — roughly the same amount as reported in total from June through November.
Cuomo said 140,000 New Yorkers have received one dose as of Monday, and said he expects another 259,000 people will receive an additional dose this week. Cuomo had tasked pharmacy workers with continuing to vaccinate nursing home residents over Christmas weekend in hopes of vaccinating roughly 85,000 nursing home residents and 130,000 staff members.
All willing nursing home residents and staffers could be vaccinated by March under a federally run program, according to Stephen Hanse, president and CEO of the New York State Health Facilities Association and the New York State Center for Assisted Living.
“This week and next week I anticipate almost a majority of all nursing homes will have had their first visit by a pharmacy to provide inoculations,” he said.
Hanse said the rollout of vaccinations “appears to be going well” and said he’s heard anecdotes of staff concerned about getting vaccinated. He said data about vaccination rates at nursing homes will be compiled over the next three to four months and submitted to the state.
By the end of the week, the state will have provided 889,000 doses to regions across the state, according to data provided by Cuomo, who has said distribution is based on population and caseloads. That includes nearly 369,000 doses for New York City, 126,000 for Long Island and 100,000 for Mid-Hudson counties north of New York City.
So far, the state’s prioritized nursing home residents and staffers, as well as high-risk hospital workers, federally qualified health center employees, paramedics, coroners, medical examiners and staff and residents of group homes for individuals with disabilities and mental health needs.
And this week, New York will prioritize urgent care center employees, individuals administering COVID-19 vaccines and residents of state-run group homes where individuals receive substance use treatment.
The state will start vaccinating ambulatory care healthcare workers next week, according to Cuomo.
New York police and health officials are investigating one potential case of a health provider fraudulently obtaining vaccine doses from the state. Cuomo said providers who engage in fraud to obtain vaccines could face up to $1 million fine and the loss of all state licenses under an executive order he plans to sign Monday.
“We want to send a clear signal to the providers that if you violate the law on these vaccinations, we will find out and you will be prosecuted,” Cuomo said in a Monday teleconference call, in which his office selected reporters to ask questions.
The governor said state police are referring an investigation of health care provider Parcare Community Health Network’s Orange County location to the state attorney general’s office.
State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said Parcare fraudulently filled out a form to obtain the vaccine, transferred it to another area, and then gave it to people who weren’t on the priority list.
The company, which has offices in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Monroe in Orange County, has said it is cooperating with the investigation, and followed New York’s procedures for obtaining the Moderna vaccine and received needed state and federal approvals.
“As a result, we have properly received the vaccines and have provided the documentation regarding the proper receipt of the vaccines to the New York State Department of Health,” the company said in a statement.
The company through a spokesperson said it administered 839 of 2,300 doses of COVID-19 vaccines it received and returned the remainder.
Cuomo said the case involving Parcare is the only case he’s “at liberty to speak about now.”
“You have many people who may want the vaccine, and you’ll have fraud in the vaccine process,” Cuomo said. “It’s almost an inevitable function of human nature and the marketplace.”
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