SEATTLE — Attorney General Bob Ferguson today announced that, as a result of his lawsuit, the maker of a so-called COVID-19 “vaccine” will repay his victims and is permanently barred from marketing vaccines without testing and evidence. The legally binding agreement comes just over a week after Ferguson filed a lawsuit and nearly two months after he sent Stine a “cease and desist” letter to stop marketing the “vaccine.”
As part of the consent decree, filed today in King County Superior Court, Redmond-area resident Johnny T. Stine and his company, North Coast Biologics, are prohibited from marketing future vaccines without rigorous testing and sound scientific evidence. Stine also will pay $8,500 to the state for the cost of bringing the case, with another $30,000 suspended based on his compliance with the agreement. The Attorney General’s Office will reach out to individuals who bought the “vaccine” and facilitate refunds. Refunds could total up to $12,000 if all 30 victims can be reached.
“Mr. Stine marketed a fake vaccine when Washingtonians felt particularly vulnerable,” Ferguson said. “That’s not only morally wrong—it’s illegal. This resolution ensures Mr. Stine refunds the individuals he swindled. He will pay an even steeper cost if he ever tries it again.”
Starting in early March and through April 2020, Stine sold and administered the vaccine to about 30 individuals, mostly Washingtonians, for $400 each. Stine began selling the vaccine via his Facebook profile around the time COVID-19 began to peak in the country and Seattle. In social media posts, Stine claimed to have developed a “vaccine” in “half a day” that made him immune to COVID-19 after he tested it on himself.
North Coast Biologics is a self-described “antibody discovery company” based in King County and is founded and directed by Stine. In January 2012, the company failed to file for a business license renewal and was administratively dissolved by the state. However, Stine continues to operate North Coast Biologics and used the company’s Facebook page — now defunct thanks to the attorney general’s actions — to promote his products.
In one Facebook post, Stine claimed his vaccine made him immune to COVID-19 and he had sent his product to China for testing. He later posted he would not wait for any health agencies to create or approve a vaccine and noted he would not “wait several months for something so trivial it took me half a day to design???? OMFG!” He also noted, “coronaviruses are easy as [expletive] to make a vaccine against.”
Although numerous COVID-19 vaccines are currently in early stages of clinical trials, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any vaccine for use in the prevention of COVID-19. Developing a safe, effective vaccine against a new pathogen can take years. In April, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and an advisor to the president on the COVID-19 response, suggested that having an approved vaccine against COVID-19 may be “doable” by January 2021 “if things fall in the right place.”
In mid-April, Stine also posted on the Facebook page of the Friday Harbor mayor and offered to vaccinate him. Stine said in the posts he would also take care of the San Juan Island town’s residents, who then expressed concern about the legitimacy of the vaccine. He subsequently denigrated the residents of the town and wrote they did not understand science.
On May 21, the FDA sent a warning letter to Stine and North Coast Biologics, telling him to remove postings about the purported vaccine.
Scammers trying to capitalize on COVID-19 fears
Scammers are sending texts and emails promising to protect individuals from the virus or offering cash payments to help weather the crisis. In reality, these messages are meant to obtain personal information, efforts known as phishing, or install harmful software on your device, called malware. Some types of software, known as ransomware, can be used to lock you out of your device until you pay the scammer. The risks of clicking unknown links are serious and real.
Washingtonians should be wary of these types of messages. Tips for avoiding COVID-19 scams:
- Be skeptical — there is no cure for COVID-19.
- Don’t click on links — they can be malicious.
- Don’t provide your personal information to unknown sources who may be trying to get your personal or financial information.
- Don’t donate money without researching who is asking for your money — there are many bogus charities offering to help.
- Visit trusted resources for legitimate information about COVID-19, like government health departments or your health care provider. The Attorney General’s Office is continuing to investigate reports of unfair business practices during the COVID-19 pandemic. To file a complaint, visit the Attorney General’s website at www.atg.wa.gov/file-complaint.