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'Snake oil' salesman in Washington state administered untested Covid-19 vaccines, officials say

Johnny Stine, of Redmond, was arrested on a charge of introducing misbranded drugs into interstate commerce.

A man in Washington state was arrested on federal charges for allegedly administering an unauthorized Covid-19 vaccine to patients.

Johnny Stine, of Redmond, traveled across the country charging patients between $400 to $1,000 for each shot, the Justice Department said in a news release. He was arrested Thursday on a charge of introducing misbranded drugs into interstate commerce.

Stine, a self-described biotech executive, began peddling the illegal vaccine in March.

U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran said the vaccine was "untested, untried and potentially unsafe."

Authorities began investigating Stine in March after the Food and Drug Administration was alerted to his social media posts. An undercover agent contacted Stine, who said he had a coronavirus vaccine for sale.

"Stine claimed that his main biotech effort was creating vaccines that attack cancer tumors. He indicated that he had used a similar method to develop his Covid-19 vaccine," the news release states.

The Justice Department did not say how many people Stine allegedly treated. The Seattle Times said it was about 30 people, citing a lawsuit filed in King County.

In June, Stine signed a consent decree to repay the roughly 30 people he sold his Covid-19 "spike protein" vaccine to, the outlet reported.

Federal authorities said that one person contacted the FDA about Stine's unauthorized vaccine, saying that their friend had been injected. This month investigators learned that another person who allegedly received one of his shots had been hospitalized with the coronavirus, according to the news release.

During the investigation, Stine told an undercover agent that he would travel to Oregon and California to vaccinate the agent's family members. He had told another undercover agent that he would travel to Idaho to vaccinate the agent, federal investigators said.

Authorities said that Stine was told numerous times to stop selling the unauthorized vaccine, but he continued to peddle it.

“The very idea that someone would prey upon fearful people seeking a Covid vaccine in the midst of a global pandemic is not only despicable, but potentially deadly behavior," said Special Agent in Charge Robert Hammer, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations operations in the Pacific Northwest.

“Snake oil salesmen, such as this, who endanger consumers should take this arrest as a stern warning. HSI, along with our law enforcement partners, remain dedicated to protecting the community from these criminals and the dangerous substances they sell.”

Stine, 55, could not be reached for comment on Tuesday. His attorney did not return a request for comment. If convicted, Stine faces up to a year in prison.

Only two Covid-19 vaccines, Moderna and Pfizer, have been approved for emergency use by the FDA.