Scientists and medics flip to TikTok to reassure public on vaccine security –
Tik Tok is unlikely to come to mind as a source of reliable information on complex topics, but scientists are using it to fly the flag on COVID-19 vaccines and other health topics.
The social media platform, which allows users to share short and often frivolous video clips, is used by a growing number of professionals to convey vital information to a wide audience as well as certain teenagers and young adults.
One such scientist is Dr. Anna Blakney (pictured above left) who works on the COVID-19 vaccine project ongoing at Imperial College London in the UK and has attracted an impressive 205,000 followers.
She told the BBC that her approach to TikTok was “come for entertainment but stay for science”. Her videos cover a variety of topics from the science behind the immune system, side effects caused by gunshots and vaccine reluctance, and the clinical and regulatory route to approval.
Another is Dr. Austin Chiang, gastroenterologist and chief medical social media officer at Jefferson Health in Philadelphia, who said in an interview with the New York Times that addressing vaccine-related issues at TikTok can be a minefield.
“When we, as health professionals, talk about vaccines, people who are vehemently against vaccines can put them out of context for their agenda. That holds me back sometimes, ”said Chiang.
“The approach I’m trying is to leave room for the gray. When you say vaccines do no harm and are the best things in the world, it can alienate people who are reluctant to vaccinate. If, instead, we acknowledge that, like everything else in medicine and life, there are risks, that is a more effective message. “
TikTok itself has now taken steps to ensure its users have access to reliable information about the pandemic, which is ramping up with the start of vaccination programs in the UK, US and other countries.
Kevin Morgan, Head of Product and Process, Europe, at the social media firm notes in a blog post that an in-app notification was introduced in January to help users find hashtags related to the pandemic links to the World Health Organization website and the British Red Cross.
An information center in-app was launched the following month to give the TikTok community access to accurate information, which has been viewed 2 billion times since June and will be updated with new vaccine information on December 17th
“In addition, we will soon be introducing a new vaccine tag to identify and tag all videos with words and hashtags related to the COVID-19 vaccine,” says Morgan.
“We will be attaching a banner to these videos with the message” Learn more about COVID-19 vaccines “directing users to” verifiable, authoritative sources of information. “