The vaccines approved or authorized for use in the U.S. against COVID-19 are safe and effective, as we’ve reported. (See SciCheck’s articles on those vaccines: “A Guide to Moderna’s COVID-19 Vaccine,“ “A Guide to Pfizer/BioNTech’s COVID-19 Vaccine” and “A Guide to Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 Vaccine.”)
For years, however, vaccine opponents have promoted the unfounded claim that vaccines introduce toxins in the body, and that they can be removed through baths, dietary changes or other measures.
One “detox bath” recipe making the rounds on Facebook is based on a TikTok video by Carrie Madej, a Georgia internist with a large online following. Although Madej’s video was taken down by TikTok in October, it was shared in the video’s duets — a TikTok resharing feature that allows users to add reactions with the original video — and received thousands of views, according to CrowdTangle analytics.
In her video, Madej offered a list of mostly harmless ingredients — baking soda, Epsom salts and bentonite clay – for detox baths to remove radiation and poisons she falsely claims are in vaccines, NBC News reported. She also recommended adding a cup of borax, a cleaning agent that can irritate skin and eyes, to remove “nanotechnologies,” an apparent reference to what she had previously called a “liquified computing system” inside vaccines.
Madej, who has made other false claims about COVID-19 vaccines, including that they change human DNA, insisted in an Instagram post on Nov. 14 that the detox bath video was not about those shots. “For the record, I have never told anyone we have a detox for the current jabs,” she wrote.
But people are taking Madej’s cocktail and promoting it as a way to counter the COVID-19 vaccine.
One of her followers, Tammy Kelley, posted a photo of the ingredients on her Facebook page and wrote: “This bath detox was shared by Dr Carrie Madej. I researched some of the benefits and these products get rid of bacteria, viruses, fungus, parasites, X-ray radiation, heavy metals and food toxins and more. Recommended for anyone who got Vax’d under pressure and wished they didn’t.”
The Food and Drug Administration explains that while vaccines contain a variety of active ingredients and other substances, the agency “requires that vaccines undergo a rigorous and extensive development program in the laboratory, as well as in animal studies and human clinical trials, to determine their safety and effectiveness.”
Medical experts say the ingredients used in vaccines are not toxic in the minute doses administered. And, they say, after getting the shot there is nothing that will prevent the vaccine from working.
“Once you’re injected, the lifesaving vaccination process has already begun. You can’t unring a bell. It’s just not physically possible,” Angela Rasmussen, a virologist and adjunct professor at the University of Saskatchewan, told NBC News.
And the track record of vaccines speaks for itself: Polio, rubella, measles, whooping cough, rotavirus, mumps, chickenpox and diphtheria, among other diseases, are no longer prevalent in the U.S. because of vaccines.
Removing Water, Not the Vaccine
Dr. Ian Musgrave, a molecular pharmacologist/toxicologist at the University of Adelaide in Australia, said proposed, but ineffective, vaccine countermeasures have included drawing blood with a snake bite kit and cupping, which involves the placement of heated cups on the skin to create a partial vacuum next to the body.
“None of the proposed methods will work to remove the vaccines, and may be potentially harmful,” Musgrave said in an email to FactCheck.org. ”All are based on a complete misunderstanding of how vaccines work.”
“By the time a ‘detox’ method is applied, most of the vector particles will have already delivered their loads into the cells,” he said.
Addressing the social media claims, Musgrave said, “borax, Epsom salts, and the like ‘detoxes,’ act by being a hypertonic solution … drawing body water out as your body tries to dilute the concentrated salt solution it is immersed in.”
“But this is the issue: it will remove water, but not large molecules” like those associated with vaccines, he said. “These cannot pass the tissue barriers in your body. If anything, it will concentrate them slightly in your tissues.”
Snake bite kits, Musgrave said, “will not draw out any vaccine, just a little (if any) tissue water and possibly concentrate the vaccine. They don’t work for snakebite, either.”
As for cupping, he said: “This might draw out a little body water but will not remove the vaccine. If anything, it might increase vaccine absorption. Cupping tends to leave large bruises from bursting blood vessels.”
Editor’s note: SciCheck’s COVID-19/Vaccination Project is made possible by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The foundation has no control over FactCheck.org’s editorial decisions, and the views expressed in our articles do not necessarily reflect the views of the foundation. The goal of the project is to increase exposure to accurate information about COVID-19 and vaccines, while decreasing the impact of misinformation.
Butler, Kiera. “If Anyone Tells You to Get a ‘Detox’ Remedy for Vaccines, Run.” Mother Jones. 13 May 2019.
Collins, Ben. “Covid vaccine holdouts are caving to mandates – then scrambling to ‘undo’ their shots.” NBC News. 12 Nov. 2021
Fact Check Explorer Search of claims made by Carrie Madej. Google. Accessed 16 Nov. 2021.
Food and Drug Administration. “Common Ingredients in U.S. Licensed Vaccines.” 19 Apr 2019.
Musgrave, Ian. “ ’Toxins’ in vaccines, a potentially deadly misunderstanding.” The Conversation. 28 Nov 2012.
Musgrave, Ian. Senior lecturer in pharmacology, University of Adelaide. Email to FactCheck.org. 18 Nov 2021
Sutton, Mitch. “Vaccine Detox: 6 Things you need to know,” Pathways to Wellness. Accessed 15 Nov 2021.