New Yorkers warned of scams regarding early access to COVID-19 vaccines

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FILE PHOTO: A small bottle labeled with a “Vaccine” sticker is held near a medical syringe in front of displayed “Coronavirus COVID-19” words in this illustration taken April 10, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic//File Photo

NEW YORK (WWTI) — New Yorkers are being warned of potential scams related to the coronavirus vaccine.

New York State Attorney General Letitia James has issued an alert to warn state residents of potential scams regarding early access to a COVID-19 vaccine. AG James is reminding New Yorkers that although the state has begun the process of vaccinating frontline workers and high risk patients, a vaccine is not available to the general public at this time. 

Currently, the Food and Drug Administration has only authorized two COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use; the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccine. The vaccines are limited to individuals 16 year and 18 years of age or older respectively. 

Considering the vaccines timeline, the Office of the Attorney General is continuing to warn New Yorkers of calls, emails or text messages offering access to a COVID-19 vaccine. The OAG stated that scammers are also using online platforms with similar schemes. 

According to the OAG, such scammers may impersonate public health officials from the Center for Disease Control or World Health Organization. Scammers may also offer to ship a COVID-19 vaccine directly to a patients home, provide special access to vaccines or sell special cold storage devices.

Attorney General James commented on COVID-19 vaccine scams. 

“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.”

The Office of the Attorney General provided the following tips to help avoid vaccine-related scams. 

  • Be wary of callers or emailers with offers of a vaccine
  • Do not provider callers or emailers with personal information; Social Security Number, personal credit card or bank account information
  • If an individual has health insurance, out of pocket costs are not required for the vaccine; if an individual does not have health insurance, the provider may only charge and administration fee
  • Individuals cannot pay to put their name on a list the receive a vaccine or be placed in a vaccine clinical trial
  • If an email is received regarding a COVID-19 vaccine or clinical trial, individuals are urged to check the sender’s email domain 

The Office of the Attorney General reminds New Yorkers that a COVID-19 vaccine is not expected to be available to the general public until the spring of 2021. Those who believe they have been the victim of a scam or unlawful activity related to a COVID-19 vaccine or clinical trial are urged to report incidents to the OAG.

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