Editor’s note: On April 28, the Washington Attorney General’s office announced it had sent Johnny T. Stine a cease and desist order, read more about it here.
Coronavirus has saturated the daily lives of people around the world. Many scientists are working tirelessly to find a vaccination or a cure for the deadly disease the virus causes — COVID-19. To date, 14 cases of the virus have been identified in San Juan County.
Seattle-based scientist Johnny Stine is a long-time friend of Friday Harbor Mayor Farhad Ghatan. In a public post on Ghatan’s Facebook, Stine asked the mayor when he would like Stine to give him his “vaccine.” The post sparked a debate on social media last week.
“I was asked to come visit a long time friend who had an interest in my work with [COVID-19] antibodies and immunogen, the spike protein,” Stine told the Journal. “I never said that I was coming to sell anything or to visit anyone else. I was [there] because a friend asked for my help.”
To date, no vaccine has been approved for defense against COVID-19 and it will likely still be a year or more before a vaccine is widely available, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The World Health Organization announced on April 25 that possessing the antibodies for COVID-19 has not been proven to protect someone from contracting the disease.
San Juan County Health Officer Dr. Frank James reiterated the need for hypervigilance regarding supposed cures or vaccines.
“I just want to highlight that in these times of uncertainty, unfortunately, there are those with bad intentions who will take advantage of this situation for financial gain or to further their own personal agendas,” James told the Journal. “Many self-proclaimed experts are providing information, paid services, or advice, much of which is inaccurate, and some of which is outright dangerous.”
Though no specific date was discussed on the public post, community members questioned the mayor’s thinking on inviting someone from off the island amid a health order restricting travel and accommodations to the islands.
“Johnny offered me his vaccine over a month ago but was too busy to come to the island. In comments made on a Facebook post we discussed having him come up in the near future to see me if I still wanted to be treated,” Ghatan told the Journal. “Having this discussion during a period when travel to the islands was strongly discouraged was simply wrong and I am sorry. It was also wrong to discuss a private medical issue on a public forum and that this error in judgment turned into a forum for public debate.”
In addition to the conversation on Farhad’s Facebook page, a March 2 post from Stine’s personal page was circulated on local social media groups wherein Stine was offering his vaccine to people he knows for $400 per person for a primary vaccination and two boosters.
Stine responded to the community calling him a “snake-oil salesman,” by lashing out, using vulgar language and name-calling on the social media posts.
“It’s very easy to get triggered by insults, especially when you’re working hard to help so many,” Stine said, adding that he has been working long hours and was “obviously triggered” by the response.
Ghatan, too, was offended, but for the community he serves, he explained. Ghatan said a number of island residents contacted him regarding Stine’s verbal attacks on community members and noted that he does not approve of the language used.
Many of those involved in the group discussion claimed that they’ve notified several authorities including the Washington Department of Health, the Washington Attorney General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
About Stine and his injection
In 2005, Stine founded the company Spaltudaq, which later changed its name to Theraclone Sciences. In 2008 he launched North Coast Biologics, which he has since closed. He is listed as a co-author on a handful of studies, primarily regarding HIV antibody research. Stine noted that he doesn’t have a P.h.D. because he never defended his doctoral thesis.
Stine told the Journal the injection he is using is an immunogen – which is typically a protein placed under the skin to elicit an immune response. He said he has given himself the injection.
“I have been designing immunogens for 34 years to study, identify and neutralize various targets,” Stine explained.
His immunogen was derived using a spike protein that was discovered by the University of Texas in February. The mapping of this protein paves the way toward a vaccine, according to the study published in Science magazine in mid-March. Read the study at https://science.sciencemag.org/content/367/6483/1260/tab-pdf.
A warning regarding unapproved vaccines
Federal, state and local government and health organizations across the globe warn people to beware of any unproven cure or vaccine that is being advertised.
“I encourage everyone — businesses, individuals, media, government staff, and others — to be thoughtful about what information you choose to believe and share, and to look to only the most trusted sources for your facts,” James told the Journal. “In general, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If anyone comes across something that is clearly a scam, please report it to the Washington State Attorney General’s Office.”
A complaint form for the Attorney General’s office can be found at https://fortress.wa.gov/atg/formhandler/ago/ComplaintForm.aspx.