A Seattle entrepreneur who marketed and sold an unauthorized coronavirus vaccine has agreed to settle a lawsuit by the Washington state Attorney General’s Office by repaying his customers and permanently refraining from similar activity.
Johnny Stine on Monday signed a legally binding consent decree to repay up to 30 people he’d allegedly sold his COVID-19 “spike protein’’ vaccine to for $400 each. He also agreed to pay the Attorney General’s Office $8,500 in legal fees; $30,000 in potential fines will be suspended as long as he complies with the agreement.
Stine had faced a maximum fine of $2,000 for each of the 30 counts of allegedly selling the purported vaccine and for allegedly touting his scientific credentials and the benefits of his concoction to those questioning its legality on social media.
A Superior Court lawsuit filed in King County this month by Attorney General Bob Ferguson alleged that Stine and his North Coast Biologics company marketed the so-called vaccine over Facebook in March and April and administered it to about 30 people in Washington and other states. No COVID-19 vaccine has attained Food and Drug Administration approval, and developing one is expected to take at least until next year.
Stine boasted on Facebook that he’d developed his vaccine in “half a day’’ and that he’d tested it on himself and even offered to give some to his good friend Farhad Ghatan, the mayor of the San Juan Island town of Friday Harbor. Some residents were outraged when Ghatan invited Stine, via Facebook, to come visit him when travel to the island had been restricted because of coronavirus fears.
Ghatan said in an interview that he and Stine later postponed the visit.
But some locals complained to state and federal authorities about Stine’s activities, leading to warning letters from Ferguson’s office and the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC letter last month told Stine that even though he’d agreed in April to comply with Ferguson’s warning, his Facebook posts touting the purported vaccine had not all been removed.
Stine founded his company in 2009 to develop potential cancer-fighting antibody drugs, but state records show he did not renew his business license in 2012. Nonetheless, he continued operating a Facebook page for the company until recently taking it down after the warning letter from Ferguson’s office.
On both the company page and a personal one, Stine also boasted of having administered unapproved cancer treatments the past several years to customers in the U.S. and Canada. Stine, who has not responded to interview requests by The Seattle Times, expressed dismay on social media with the length of time needed to obtain FDA approval for drugs.
His deal with the Attorney General’s Office prohibits him from marketing any COVID-19 vaccine without testing and sound scientific evidence.