Centers Urgent Care to continue supplying COVID-19 vaccines at Korean Community Services in Bayside following allegations of ‘over diluting’

A woman holds a small bottle labeled with a “Coronavirus COVID-19 Vaccine” sticker and a medical syringe in this illustration
REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

A New York City-based health company confirmed that it will continue to administer COVID-19 vaccines at the Korean Community Services (KCS) Center in Bayside following allegations that employees were told to “over dilute” 16,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

In an exclusive story for CBS, ex-Centers Urgent Care employee Andrew Palazzo said that the company’s CEO Scott Orlanski gave instructions for employees to put up to 2.0 mL of diluent into vials of the Pfizer vaccine in order “to obtain at least seven doses per vial.”

According to regulations from the FDA, each vial of the Pfizer vaccine contains 0.45 mL, which is about six doses that requires thawing and dilution prior to administration. The guidelines go on to say that administrators should use no more than 1.8 mL of 0.9 percent sodium chloride for dilution, which is more than Orlanski allegedly advised Palazzo to put in.

Despite the allegations, Centers Urgent Care, which has a nearby location in Middle Village, said they would continue to supply vaccines to the Bayside site.

“Centers Urgent Care is open for business at the Korean Community Services site. Although we cannot comment on the allegations since the matter is pending litigation, the city continues to back Centers Urgent Care after an onsite investigation was conducted by the Department of Health,” spokesperson Jeff Jacomowitz said.

Centers Urgent Care began administering Pfizer vaccines at KCS, first as a popup location in February 2020 and then permanently beginning in March 2020. Palazzo said that about 16,000 doses of the vaccines were over diluted when he worked there from March until he was fired in May 2020, according to the CBS report. The ex-employee filed a lawsuit against his former employer for lost wages.

Other employees anonymously told CBS they “threatened to quit” if they were forced to continue over diluting the vaccines but Dr. Josef Schenker, medical director and owner of Centers, said they “never advised anybody to over dilute anything.”

A spokesperson from the city’s Department of Health (DOH) confirmed that senior staffers carried out an “unannounced visit” to KCS following the allegations.

“We hold all of our providers to the highest possible standard, and the city regularly visits vaccine sites to ensure that all safety and health protocols are followed. Any allegations that best practices are not observed are closely scrutinized – which is what has happened here,” said DOH spokesperson Patrick Gallahue. “Senior city staff have carried out an unannounced site visit, checked the vaccine, interviewed staff and observed processes. To date, no major issues have been identified, however, we’ll continue to ensure that best practices are followed wherever vaccine is administered.”