Woman holds vial labeled “COVID-19 Coronavirus Vaccine” over dry ice in this December 5, 2020 illustration.
Dado Ruvic | Figure | Reuters
“I can’t produce enough for the masses,” wrote Johnny T. Stine on Facebook in May, “but in 18 months, when the virus is long gone, everyone will have access to the vaccine I have now.”
Stine, founder of North Coast Biologics in Seattle, said he had already given 12 people a Covid vaccine in the city he lived in and traveled to Alaska to immunize more. He stated that he is “not here to save the world” but that he is making his product available to those “who are at higher risk”.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commission issued a warning letter to Stine on May 21 stating that it was illegal to advertise a product that could prevent disease unless you can demonstrate scientific evidence.
Obviously Stine couldn’t.
The letter stated that Stine is promoting “unapproved and mis-branded products related to Covid-19”.
It goes on to say, “The FDA is taking urgent action to protect consumers from certain products that, without FDA approval, approval, or approval, claim to mitigate, prevent, treat, diagnose, or treat Covid-19 in humans heal.” You have a product for sale that is designed to relieve, prevent, treat, diagnose, or cure Covid-19 in people. We ask that you immediately take action to stop selling such unlicensed, unapproved and unauthorized products to the population at the mitigation, prevention, treatment, diagnosis or cure of Covid-19. “
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Just this fall, Moderna, Pfizer and AstraZeneca announced that their Covid vaccines were 90% (or more) effective in clinical trials. The news gave hope after a particularly dark year.
However, the preventive treatments could still be months away for many people. A recent report found that President Donald Trump rejected a contract with Pfizer for additional rounds of vaccination months ago, meaning many Americans may need to ensure that those in other countries get the vaccination before doing so.
Meanwhile, scammers like Stine are chasing after people’s desperation to protect themselves from a virus that has already sickened more than 15 million Americans and left over 200,000 dead.
(Stine didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.)
“Obviously, with Covid, the demand for vaccines will far outweigh the initial supply, and we can assume that bad actors will quickly fill that void,” said Karen Gardner, chief marketing officer at SIPCA North America, a global security company.
One factor that makes matters worse is that legitimate companies and government officials typically have more time to put in treatments and take protective measures against fraud than they do during the pandemic, Gardner said.
“Given the urgency of the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines and the speed with which vaccines are being brought to market, it is likely that some vaccines – at least in the first round of vaccine manufacture and dispensing – may not contain all of the safety features available to prevent this fraud, “she said.
People who fall for these bogus ads have dire consequences. Such bogus products that haven’t passed rigorous testing or clinical trials can make you sick.
“There is also an enormous risk that these people – who believe they are effectively vaccinated – will interact with other, unvaccinated people and lead to the further spread of this deadly virus,” Gardner said.
If someone tells you it’s available right now, that’s a scam.
a spokeswoman for the Patient Advocate Foundation
Any vaccine you receive should only be given by a licensed doctor, experts say. Most health departments will publish a list of approved Covid vaccine providers, Gardner said.
Caitlin Donovan, a spokeswoman for the Patient Advocate Foundation, a nonprofit that helps patients gain access to and pay for health care, recommends that people get the vaccine through their GP.
“Ask if there is a waiting list you can sign up for and if there is a plan for distribution,” Donovan said.
Remember, most people in the US won’t get a vaccine until the summer, she said.
“If someone tells you it’s available right now, it’s a scam,” Donovan said.