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ParCare reportedly backs down on giving COVID shots after state probe

December 28, 2020 Associated Press and Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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Several days after the New York State Health Department said it planned to investigate a chain of health centers for giving out COVID-19 vaccines that were allegedly unauthorized, the chain, which has four centers in Brooklyn, evidently backed down on Sunday.

On Sunday, a hand-lettered sign saying “No Vaccines” was taped to the front door of the ParCare Community Health Network’s storefront at 445 Park Ave. in Williamsburg, according to the New York Post. A nurse who was asked whether people were getting the coronavirus vaccine answered, “We do not have any vaccines,” and a man who showed up to get a shot was turned away at the door.

ParCare, on earlier posts on its Facebook page, did nothing to hide the fact that it was giving COVID vaccines and, in fact, advertised it. On Dec. 21, it posted, “ONE SMALL INJECTION CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE FOR THE ENTIRE COMMUNITY! our @ParCare Centers received thousands of #COVID19 #Moderna #vaccines this morning. Thanks to @UPS and our dedicated staff who woke up early to receive this lifesaving shipment #healthcareheroes” 

And earlier, on Dec. 16, it posted, ParCare Community Health Network has been authorized to distribute the #CovidVaccine for people who fall under certain criteria.”  The other three Brooklyn centers are at 4714 16th Ave., Borough Park; 6010 Bay Parkway, Bensonhurst; and 1577 Fulton St., Crown Heights/Bed-Stuy.

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How ParCare got the vaccine, however, is what worries the Department of Health. 

State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said in a statement that his office and state police on Saturday were investigating the network. 

He said he had received reports that ParCare’s Orange County location may have fraudulently obtained the vaccine and diverted it to its other facilities to be given to members of the public. The state has prioritized front-line health care workers, long-term care residents and staffers to receive the vaccine first.

“We take this very seriously and DOH will be assisting State Police in a criminal investigation into this matter,” Zucker said. “Anyone found to have knowingly participated in this scheme will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”

In an emailed statement, ParCare said it would cooperate with the investigation and that it “has a long history of partnering with the city of New York to provide vital healthcare services to New Yorkers who need them most — including providing COVID-19 testing — especially for New Yorkers in medically underserved communities who’ve been hardest hit by COVID-19.”

The story first came to prominence when BoroParkNews, a hyperlocal news site, published a story on Dec. 21 reporting that ParCare was offering hundreds of the vaccine to the elderly, those considered high risk or people with underlying health conditions.

“Hundreds of patients were already vaccinated today, and people are still coming in,” Gary Schlesinger, the CEO and president of ParCare, told the publication.

Not all readers of  the company’s Facebook page were enthusiastic about the vaccine distribution. Poster Joe Montana (not the football quarterback) wrote, 

“I hope you are charged with Fraud. There is NO way you obtained these vaccinations legally. You have brought to our community shame.”

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