PSA: Don't Buy Covid Vaccines Some Dude Mixed Up In His Bathtub
Throughout the pandemic, people across the world have been getting into the whole DIY thing, either out of necessity or out of boredom. Some people have been baking bread, others have been remodeling their homes. Still others have been brewing up their own Covid vaccines. That last one, it turns out, is pretty illegal.
Washington state "entrepreneur" Johnny T. Stine, a surfing enthusiast and the founder and president of North Coast Biologics, has been selling an "untested, untried and potentially unsafe" COVID-19 vaccine for between $400 and $1,000 a pop since early March. After repeated cease and desist warnings from the FDA, Stine continued and has now been arrested on a federal misdemeanor charge of "introducing a misbranded drug into interstate commerce for distribution" and claiming it is a "COVID-19 vaccine," which could result in up to a year in prison.
FDA Investigators first became aware of Stine through his posts on Facebook and LinkedIn, where he was offering to sell his home-brewed vaccine to any sucker he could find. After discovering his posts, undercover FDA agents contacted Stine, who claimed to be traveling the country injecting people with his vaccine, and offered to go to the homes of said undercover agents to vaccinate them. The FDA then sent him a warning letter telling him to stop doing this.
In one post on someone else's page, Stine made bizarre claims about his product, assuring the potential customer that creating a vaccine wasn't "rocket science." (Obviously [sic] throughout.)
"Should I pop up and get your vaccine started????? . . . I can test you Farhad – if you're able to get one of those sterile lances, I just need a few drops of blood. Don't worry – I'm immune – I have boosted myself five times with my vaccine and I have a screaming antibody titer to the spike protein and the spike protein receptor binding domain . . . and I'm not mass producing it – I can't produce enough for the masses, but in 18 months, when the virus is long gone, everyone will have access to the vaccine that I have now since everyone (70 players) are at the door steps of the FDA to get their product mass produced and injected into 'you' well after the threat . . . I'm VACCINATING people with the nCov19 spike protein – it's a recombinantly expressed protein and it goes subQ by a tiny needle and the recipient begins making antibodies to the spike protein which is also saying that they will be protected from infection. It's like any other recombinant protein vaccine. Not rocket science . . . I can test him for antibodies too, but my thinking is (if he hasn't already been exposed/infected) just take the vaccine because it's a lot quicker than bleeding someone and doing the antibody test."
To be fair, creating a vaccine is not rocket science. It is a different kind of science altogether, but it's certainly not the kind of thing one can just whip up in a few days.
The warning letter did not deter Stine from peddling his snake oil.
The US attorney for the Western District of Washington explains in its press release:
In late April, responding to complaints from the public, the Washington State Attorney General issued a cease and desist letter to STINE, telling him to stop making claims and offering his "vaccine" for COVID-19. Rather than be deterred, STINE indicated it had just increased demand for his injections which he now called "immunogen" instead of a vaccine. In June, STINE signed a Consent Decree with the Washington State Attorney General wherein he agreed not to promote or sell his COVID-19 vaccine.
Still, in August STINE again communicated with an undercover agent and traveled to Idaho to "vaccinate" the agent. Law enforcement contacted STINE in Idaho and seized the "vaccine." Agents also executed a court-authorized search warrant on the Redmond warehouse where STINE claimed to conduct his research.
According to the press release, Stine has said his primary "biotech" interest has been in selling cancer "vaccines" that "attack tumors." He claims to be using the same technology to create these easy peasy COVID vaccines. He is being charged with crimes related to that activity as well.
So far, at least one of his patients has ended up hospitalized with COVID-19.
Johnny T. Stine is not the first to try and exploit the pandemic in order to sell fake cures, and he likely won't be the last. People are desperate and scared, and there will always be people out there who look at that and see a money-making opportunity for themselves.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse