New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is proposing a law to make it a crime to sell or administer coronavirus vaccine shots to people who are trying to skip ahead in line.
“This vaccine can be like gold to some people,” Cuomo said at a press briefing Monday. “If there’s any fraud in the distribution — you’re letting people get ahead of other people, or friends or family, or they’re selling the vaccine — you’ll lose your license, but I do believe it should be criminal, and I’m going to propose a law to that effect.”
Cuomo said providers can lose their license if they fraudulently administer vaccines, though the law would add criminal penalties if approved by the state legislature. So far, health-care workers and people living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities are eligible for Covid-19 vaccines.
The announcement comes just over a week after one New York clinic, ParCare Community Health Network, was accused of misrepresenting itself to the state’s department of health to obtain vaccine doses.
New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said in a statement that the clinic may have “diverted [the vaccine] to members of the public — contrary to the state’s plan to administer it first to frontline healthcare workers, as well as nursing home residents and staffers.” ParCare said it would cooperate with the attorney general’s investigation.
New York has already started administering Covid-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, though the rollout has been slower than planned. Cuomo pushed the state’s hospitals to administer the vaccine faster. He said hospitals are facing fines of up to $100,000 if they don’t administer their allocations of coronavirus vaccines by the end of this week.
The state has received more than 774,000 Covid-19 vaccine doses but has given just 237,000 shots as of Saturday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Hospitals that have received Covid-19 vaccines over the last three weeks have used only about 46% of the doses on average, according to a slide Cuomo presented at the briefing. While some hospitals have administered nearly all of their doses, others have used as little as 15%, according to the governor.
“This is a management issue of the hospitals. They have to move the vaccine, and they have to move the vaccine faster,” Cuomo said.
Cuomo said the New York State Department of Health sent a letter on Sunday to all hospitals saying if they don’t use their vaccine allocations by the end of this week, they’ll be fined up to $100,000 and they won’t receive any further allocations.
Moving forward, the state’s hospitals will be required to use their doses within a week of receiving them. Providers who fall seriously behind could be issued further sanctions, he said.
“You have the allocation, we want it in people’s arms as soon as possible,” Cuomo said. “We’ll use other hospitals who can administer it better.”
New York is participating in the federal government’s partnership with pharmacy chains including CVS and Walgreens to administer doses to long-term care residents, though Cuomo said that program isn’t moving fast enough.
Just under half of the state’s 611 facilities participating in the program have administered the first dose of vaccine to residents so far, Cuomo said. The state will send personnel to “supplement and expedite” the federal program to get up to 85% of its nursing home residents inoculated with their first dose by the end of this week, he said.
“The goal is, over the next two weeks, all the nursing home residents vaccinated,” Cuomo said. “The nursing homes have always been the most vulnerable populations, and we want to get that done. We want to get that done quickly.”