Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) claimed that using mouthwash can prevent COVID-19 infection, a claim that has been debunked by public health experts.
“Standard gargle, mouthwash, has been proven to kill the coronavirus,” Johnson said, according to The Washington Post. “If you get it, you may reduce viral replication. Why not try all these things?”
A recording uploaded by Heartland Signal reveals that Johnson also criticized the National Institutes of Health (NIH), saying, “It just boggles my mind that the NIH continues to tell people to do nothing.”
Johnson responded to news of the recording by tweeting research showing that mouthwash can provide a “modest benefit” by “reducing viral load in saliva.”
.@NIH: This trial supports using CDCM on day 1 (4 hours after the initial dose) to reduce the SARS-CoV-2 viral load in saliva. For long-term effect (7 days), CDMC appears to provide a modest benefit compared with placebo in reducing viral load in saliva.https://t.co/VeXd3zmlEG https://t.co/XKq6YfQx0d
— Senator Ron Johnson (@SenRonJohnson) December 9, 2021
Johnson was immediately criticized by individuals who said he should instead support getting as many Americans vaccinated as possible.
Senator, could we humbly ask: do you think the NIH would suggest redirecting some of your enthusiasm for recommending mouthwash to instead getting people vaccinated?
— Heartland Signal (@HeartlandSignal) December 9, 2021
And vaccination, Senator? How much transmission reduction does not getting covid in the first place provide?
— 🌈 Alexandra Leigh 🎮 (@a_leigh_n) December 9, 2021
Science and testing can prove you right. Encourage everyone get the vaccine and wear the masks (for the test) and then after six months to a year compare the data. If you do not do that then you are admitting you have no case.
— Tina M Long (@TinaMGLong) December 9, 2021
Why not just get the vaccine?
— Your Crazy Uncle (@YourCrazyUncle4) December 9, 2021
Or, just get vaccinated.
— BM (@BrentM246) December 9, 2021
Listerine points out on its website that its product “is not intended to prevent or treat COVID-19 and should be used only as directed on the product label.”
“Overall, more research is needed to understand whether use of mouthwashes can impact viral transmission, exposure, viral entry, viral load and ultimately affect meaningful clinical outcomes or have a public health impact,” the website added.
Johnson is one of Congress’s more prominent COVID-19 skeptics and made headlines earlier this year for questioning the government’s vaccine rollout, saying that it “probably should have limited the distribution to the vulnerable” and questioned the “big push to make sure everybody gets a vaccine.”
[W]hy this big push to make sure everybody gets a vaccine, to the point where you better impose it, you’re going to shame people, you’re going to force them to carry a card to prove that they’ve been vaccinated so they can participate in society?” Johnson asked Wisconsin conservative radio host Vicki McKenna, echoing unfounded fears about vaccine passports.
Johnson acknowledged that the vaccines are effective but added, “So if you have a vaccine, quite honestly what do you care if your neighbor has one or not? What is it to you?”
“I’m getting highly suspicious of what’s happening here,” he said.
Alan is a writer, editor, and news junkie based in New York.