COVID-19 vaccines given according to state’s hierarchy, 140K so far

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

“Vaccine is starting to come,” said Health Commissioner Elizabeth Whalen at a county press briefing on Monday morning.

ALBANY COUNTY — Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday that 140,000 New Yorkers have so far received a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine; two doses 21 days apart are needed.
“That would put New York at the top of the national chart on the number of vaccines that have actually been given to people,” Cuomo said at his press briefing on Monday.

Cuomo also announced that he was signing an executive order that a health-care provider could be fined up to $1 million and have state licenses to practice medicine revoked if vaccinations were given outside of the parameters set by the state’s tiered hierarchy.

The state expects to receive another 259,000 doses this week, with 139,400 made by Pfizer and BioNTech and 119,600 made by Moderna, he said.

“Vaccine is starting to come,” said Health Commissioner Elizabeth Whalen at a county press briefing on Monday morning. “We are working in a very productive, collaborative, positive relationship with Albany Medical Center and other local health departments and hospitals that are part of our regional hub.”

As supplies are received in coming weeks, Whalen said, state guidelines will be followed for vaccinating “priority populations.”

The initial vaccines went to high-risk frontline medical workers and to residents and workers at nursing homes.

Next, vaccinations were given to, and continue to be given to, federally qualified health-center employees, emergency medical-services workers, coroners, medical examiners, funeral workers, and residents and staff of Office for People with Developmental Disabilities and Office of Mental Health facilities.

That has been expanded to urgent-care center workers; people administering COVID-19 vaccines, including local health-department staff; and residents of the Office of Addiction Services and Supports’ congregate facilities.

Next week, the state expects to expand this by also vaccinating ambulatory care workers and public-facing public-health workers.

Cuomo said that the vaccines are being distributed to various regions based on the “proportionate number of people eligible for the vaccine in that region.” He said, “It’s not that we like the Capital Region more than Central New York; it’s all on the math.”



Cuomo also spoke on Monday of “possible fraud by a health-care provider.”

“You’re going to see more and more of this. The vaccine is a valuable commodity and you have many people who want the vaccine,” he said.

On Saturday, the governor’s office had put out a statement from New York’s health commissioner, Howard Zucker, on a criminal investigation into a health network in Orange County, which may not have followed the state’s plan for administering the COVID-19 vaccine.

“The State Department of Health has been made aware of reports that Parcare Community Health Network, an Orange County provider, 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 — contrary to the state’s plan to administer it first to frontline health-care workers, as well as nursing-home residents and staffers,” said Zucker.

He went on to say the department takes the allegations “very seriously” and the state’s health department will help the State Police in a criminal investigation into the matter.

“Anyone found to have knowingly participated in this scheme will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” said Zucker.

Parcare doesn’t appear to have been keeping its vaccination program secret. The health network had tweeted on Dec. 16 that it had been authorized to distribute the vaccine to people who met certain criteria and urged patients to reserve a slot to be administered on a first come, first served basis. The tweet said the vaccine was only for people in the following categories: elderly, high risk, underlying conditions.

Then, on Dec. 26, Parcare had tweeted a picture of “our dear friend & member” Rabbi Gary Schlesinger getting a COVID-19 shot.

At his Monday press conference, Cuomo said the State Police were pursuing an investigation and that Attorney General Letitia James would make the case a priority.

“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,” said Cuomo.

He said he was signing an executive order that a provider could be fined up to $1 million and have state licenses to practice medicine revoked.

“So, if you engage in fraud on this vaccine, we will remove your license to practice in the State of New York so we are very serious about this ….,” said Cuomo. “I was the attorney general for four years. People talk, we will find out, and it’s not worth risking your license as well as a possible civil and criminal penalty.”

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