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NY probes clinics serving ultra-Orthodox community over possible vaccine fraud

State health commissioner says ParCare Community Health Network may have obtained COVID-19 shots ‘fraudulently,’ given doses to members of the public ‘contrary to the state’s plan’

A photo posted to Twitter on December 21, 2020 showed Gary Schlesinger, CEO of ParCare Community Health Network, receiving the coronavirus vaccine. (Twitter via JTA)
A photo posted to Twitter on December 21, 2020 showed Gary Schlesinger, CEO of ParCare Community Health Network, receiving the coronavirus vaccine. (Twitter via JTA)

JTA — A network of health clinics owned by an ultra-Orthodox man and serving a number of ultra-Orthodox communities in Brooklyn and upstate New York is under investigation for administering COVID-19 vaccines to members of the general public.

New York State health commissioner Howard Zucker announced the investigation into ParCare Community Health Network on Saturday, saying in a statement that the clinics may have obtained the vaccines “fraudulently” and administered doses to members of the public “contrary to the state’s plan.”

Currently, only frontline health care workers and nursing home residents and staff are receiving the vaccines in New York State, and vaccinations are taking place at hospitals and nursing homes.

But BoroPark24, a Yiddish news service, reported on Dec. 21 that ParCare had obtained 3,500 doses of the vaccine produced by Moderna and would vaccinate 500 people that day.

ONE SMALL INJECTION CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE FOR THE ENTIRE COMMUNITY! our @ParCare Centers received thousands of #COVID19…

Posted by ParCare Health & Medical Center on Monday, December 21, 2020

The network’s CEO, Gary Schlesinger, told BoroPark24 that ParCare had gotten permission to vaccinate patients and that only people over 60 or with underlying conditions would be eligible at first. The next day, he retweeted a picture of himself receiving the vaccine.

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

The statement came after the New York Post asked a health department spokesperson about ParCare’s vaccine administration, according to the Post.

ParCare operates six clinics, including in Williamsburg, Borough Park and Bensonhurst in Brooklyn and in Monroe, New York, the Orange County town that encompasses the Satmar village of Kiryas Joel. Throughout the pandemic, those Orthodox neighborhoods have drawn attention for having many people not wear masks and for holding large events such as weddings in violation of state rules.

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