Medical experts are speaking out against Covid-19 vaccine “detoxes” that some inaccurately claim can remove the effects of vaccinations received under mandates and other public health rulings.
In one TikTok video that has received hundreds of thousands of views, Carrie Madej, an osteopath based in Georgia, falsely claims a bath containing baking soda, epsom salts and the cleaning agent borax will “detox the vaxx” from anyone who has received a jab.
Experts say such a bath could irritate the skin and eyes – but will not remove the effects of a Covid vaccine.
In Kansas, Dana Hawkinson, medical director of infection prevention and control for the state university health system, told the Kansas City Star borax was “potentially caustic and harmful”.
Angela Rasmussen, a virologist and adjunct professor at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada, told NBC News: “Once you’re injected, the lifesaving vaccination process has already begun. You can’t unring a bell. It’s just not physically possible.”
Anti-vaccine groups have also claimed self-administered cupping – an alternative therapy involving suction that has no proven benefits – can remove the effects of Covid vaccines. Social media posts providing instructions on how to “un-inject” a vaccine have been shared.
Unproven and sometimes dangerous vaccine “detox” remedies, including restrictive diets and supplements, have been popular in anti-vaccination circles for years. Social media, coupled with politicized resistance to Covid-19 vaccine mandates imposed by businesses and government agencies, has increased the spread of misinformation.
TikTok in particular has become a platform for anti-vaccine influencers. Madej’s video was removed but users were able to share it by making duets, a feature by which users can add reactions or context side-by-side with an original video.
Some duets, which have also gone viral, list ingredients needed for a “detox bath” or show users making such baths themselves.
“This illustrates how these anti-vaccine communities are shifting and pushing these claims toward vaccinated people,” Ciaran O’Connor, an analyst at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a London anti-extremism and disinformation nonprofit, told NBC.
The US has recorded more than 762,000 deaths from Covid-19. About 226 million Americans have received at least one vaccine dose and at least 195 million have had two, meaning 58.7% of Americans are fully vaccinated.
While the spread of Covid “detoxes” has caused concern among experts, some argue it should be seen as a sign vaccine mandates are working.
“I think it is actually a good sign that these ‘How to undo your vaccine’ videos are taking off,” Rasmussen said. “It suggests that a lot of those people who previously were saying ‘vaccines are terrible and I will never do it’ are, actually, doing it.”