Doctors in Bolivia are administering bleach as a COVID treatment

Doctors in Bolivia are administering chlorine dioxide – aka bleach – in an attempt to cure COVID and supposed vaccine side effects.

It’s easy to laugh and shake your head at statements that bleach could cure COVID when the idea comes from Donald Trump. But the prevalent belief in Bolivia that chlorine dioxide can cure COVID, or remedy the supposed ill-effects of the vaccine, stems from circumstances that are far from laughable.

VICE has reported that in Latin America, particularly Bolivia, the political legitimisation of chlorine dioxide to prevent and treat COVID has created a market for dangerous tonics, sprays, and intravenous infusions.

Chlorine Dioxide
Image: Jika Gonzalez/ Vice World News

After botched messaging and vaccine rollouts, doctors are overwhelmed with patients seeking detoxification services.

“People are looking for easy solutions. It’s a rich field for charlatans to prey on,” said René Soria Saucedo, an epidemiologist in Bolivia.

“We have enough on our plate with COVID alone, but now we are seeing even more complicated cases because people have consumed chlorine dioxide. It’s a burden on the health system that’s not manageable in this country.”

A complex and tumultuous political landscape has generated an environment in which the production and sale of the substance could thrive. In fact, the scene was set for the prevalence of chlorine dioxide to gain legitimacy before the pandemic even began.

After the long-serving leftist President Evo Morales resigned under pressure from the military in November 2019, the door opened for chlorine dioxide to become a pawn in the fight for power. Morales was replaced by Jeanine Áñez, an evangelical lawmaker from the conservative opposition.

In order to regain office in the forthcoming presidential election, the Bolivian Senate, controlled by Morales’ Movement for Socialism party, passed a bill approving the supply and use of chlorine dioxide for the prevention and treatment of COVID. The move was appealed by Áñez’s health ministry, but on October 14 the Senate declared the legislation law, and four days later the leftist candidate won the new presidential election.

Eva Copa, who presided over the law’s passage, told VICE World News, “There were no vaccines. We didn’t know when those were going to show up. We had no medicine, so we had to find other things to get better,” she said in passionate defence of the law.

Copa, who is now mayor of El Alto, one of Bolivia’s biggest cities said, “It’s better to regulate chlorine dioxide instead of people buying it on the black market.

By regulating the substance, and even enabling its production, the Bolivian government has only added pressure to the already tenuous fight against COVID in the country.

Dr. Antonio Viruez, who works at a COVID intensive care unit in Bolivia’s Hospital del Norte, said to Vice World News that COVID is hard enough to deal with without the added burden of chlorine dioxide intoxication:

“Chlorine dioxide is a very toxic irritant, sort of like gasoline,” Viruez said. “When you administer chlorine dioxide intravenously, patients begin bleeding through their eyes and through their bladder.”

Of the five COVID patients he’s treated who’ve consumed chlorine dioxide, all five died.

“We’re tired. I can’t deny it,” Viruez said. “Medicine is based on science, not myths.”