Vaccine medical doctors on TikTok: ‘Come for the enjoyable, keep for the science’

*:Not([hidden]): not (style) ~ *: not ([hidden]): not (style) {margin-top: 1rem;}]]>

By Manish Pandey
Newsbeat reporter

*:Not([hidden]): not (style) ~ *: not ([hidden]): not (style) {margin-left: 0.5rem;}]]>Image rightsTICK TOCK *:Not([hidden]): not (style) ~ *: not ([hidden]): not (style) {margin-top: 1rem;}]]>

Science and TikTok are two things that you might not think would normally go together.

But with vaccines that give us light at the end of the coronavirus tunnel, the two have become important partners.

Scientists working on vaccines use TikTok to get information and safety about the safety of bumps.

“My approach to TikTok has come to entertainment, but stick to science,” says Dr. Anna Blakney, one of those scientists, told Radio 1 Newsbeat.

Anna is from the USA and is part of a team that is developing a Covid vaccine at Imperial College London.

Image rightsAnna Blakney / TIKTOKImage descriptionAnna is one of the members of Team Halo – a campaign to help reassure people about vaccines on social media

The 30-year-old has developed into an Internet star with her creative vaccine explanations on TikTok and has over 200,000 followers and 2.8 million likes.

“I have to stop and think, ‘wow, this is bigger than our lab and bigger than myself,'” added the 30-year-old.

“Trust Science More”

Another star on TikTok’s science scene is Dr. Will Budd – a research doctor from London who works on various vaccines.

Will, who is 26, says his goal is to educate people about vaccines and reduce “vaccine hesitation”.

“It’s fun videos, 50 or 60 seconds, in which people can learn a little about vaccines and trust science more.”

Image rightsWill BuddImage descriptionWill is working on several vaccines including Oxford, Imperial COVAC, and the Janssen vaccine trials.

Will was screened during the initial lockdown because he had a kidney transplant in 2016. So he understands what it’s like to be “afraid of the coronavirus”.

He knows that people are understandably afraid of things that they cannot fully understand.

“I want to help this so that they can decide whether or not to have it after making an informed decision.”

The questions they answer

Will and Anna get “a series of questions” from people, mostly about safety and the speed with which it was being developed.

“It’s usually about how a vaccine works and why it is so fast compared to regular drugs, or how one vaccine works differently from another,” Will says.

  • What you need to know about vaccine safety
  • Can people with allergies have the Covid vaccine?
  • How do I know the Covid vaccine is safe?

Anna says: “It’s really great that people have questions and are skeptical.”

‘The general public may not have the same access to data as scientists or how to interpret it. So they rely on someone else to come to a conclusion for them.’

It’s all about the trends

Trying to incorporate complicated scientific information into a short video sounds challenging – how do Will and Anna do it?

“The basis of TikTok is just copying trends. My approach is to take that and try to make it scientific or vaccine-related,” says Anna.

Image rightsWill Budd and Anna Blakeny / TIKTOKImage descriptionWill and Anna use song and dance to educate people about vaccines

Will’s most watched video features a dance trend.

And Anna’s most popular TikTok to date isn’t the 15 million view post – it’s one that has to do with Dolly Parton after the singer hit the headlines for donating money to research.

“It was a vaccine cover of their song 9 through 5. Though my singing is horrible, I think it’s a smart song.”

Will follows “a three step process” when it comes to answering questions.

“The first thing I think about is two or three important points that I want to convey in the video.”

He then decides what to put in the background with the green screen tool – a graphic or a message – to help with the information he wants to give.

“And I try to make it exciting too. You don’t want someone to get bored and think about the answer.”

Image rightsWill Budd / TIKTOKImage descriptionWhether it’s a chart or a message, Will says, “You have to catch their eyes because people are swiping very quickly.”

Despite the commitments of her job, Anna spends an hour at the beginning of each week doing four or five videos for the week ahead – and then “an hour a day” answering the many questions people use to comment.

As for Will, he gets “better” with the platform after being “terrible at first” and using the free time he has at work and at home.

“I think it’s really important. If I didn’t believe in it, it would be difficult to motivate me to spend my time with it.”

“Answer conspiracy theories with facts”

Anna and Will also have to deal with conspiracy theories.

“It’s difficult to keep responding to them because they are so unfounded in what they say,” Will says.

“So it’s important not to get into arguments with people, not to get emotional, because that completely changes what you’re trying to say. You’re trying to answer with facts.”

Image rightsAnna BlakneyImage description“The best way to counteract misinformation is to provide correct information.”

Anna says that in the face of misinformation, she tries to “hold on to my mission”, answer questions, and educate people.

She adds that it’s important not to categorize people who ask questions or have concerns like those who encourage conspiracies.

“People just have questions and want them answered.”

“I would love to see more scientists get involved because I think TikTok is a really powerful way to do it.”

Follow Newsbeat on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Related topics

Comments are closed.