It looks like scammers are already finding a way to cash in on the biggest medical breakthrough of 2020. On Monday New York Attorney General Letitia James issued an alert to warn New Yorkers about potential scams offering early access to a coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine. While New York has begun the process of vaccinating nursing home residents, nursing home staff who regularly interact with patients, and high-risk medical workers, the vaccine will not become widely available to the general public in New York for several more months.
Consistent with federal guidelines, New York plans to offer vaccines next to long-term care residents and staff and other healthcare workers, then to certain essential workers, and finally to members of the general population, beginning with the people at highest risk for severe COVID-19 symptoms (such as those over 65 years old or with underlying health conditions like cancer or heart disease). New York has not yet announced a definitive timeline for distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine to any of these later groups.
“We must remain vigilant about potential scams and ensure New Yorkers know the latest information regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. At this time, there is no government-authorized vaccine available to the general population in New York,” said Attorney General James.
“Throughout this pandemic, scammers have found ways to victimize the public, with the vaccine distribution process being their latest method for fraud. My office remains committed to rooting out COVID-19 scams, and I encourage the public to report suspected illegal activity to my office.”
The Office of Attorney General (OAG) continues to warn New Yorkers of anyone who calls, e-mails, or texts individuals offering access to a COVID-19 vaccine. In addition, some individuals may seek to use online platforms with similar schemes. Scammers may impersonate public health officials from organizations such as the Center for Disease Control (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO). They may also offer to ship a COVID-19 vaccine directly to homes, provide special access to vaccines or clinical trials, or sell special cold storage device for vaccines.
The OAG offered the following advice for avoiding potential Scams:
– Be wary of anyone calling or emailing you with offers of a vaccine and do not give out your Social Security number, personal credit card, or bank account information. No one from a vaccine distributor, health care company, or private insurance company will ask for this information.
– If you have health insurance, you should not need to pay anything out of pocket to get the vaccine while the pandemic remains a public health emergency. If you don’t have health insurance, the provider may only charge an administration fee. However, in many instances, you likely will not be required to pay the administration fee.
– You cannot pay to put your name on a list to get the vaccine or to get into a vaccine trial
If you get an e-mail about a COVID-19 vaccine or clinical trial, check the sender’s email domain to make sure it matches the website of the organization sending the e-mail and be wary of clicking on any hyperlinks or providing any login or other personal information.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized two COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use so far. The Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine is authorized for use in individuals 16 years of age and older, while the Moderna vaccine is authorized for use in individuals 18 and older. If you have doubt about whether a vaccine or clinical trial is real, check with a licensed healthcare provider. For all up-to-date information pertaining to COVID-19 vaccine approval and distribution in New York, please visit: https://covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov. Individuals may contact the New York State COVID-19 Hotline at 888-364-3065 for all COVID-19 related questions.