Covid-19 vaccine scientists take to TikTok to ‘demystify' treatment development

  • Scientists working on a Covid-19 vaccine are using social media to build confidence in the treatment development process and debunk myths about coronavirus.

    The campaign, called Team Halo, sees researchers working on vaccines in the UK, US, South Africa, India and Brazil posting videos to TikTok, Twitter and Instagram, highlighting their work.

    The campaign will also see the participating scientists, known as Guides, respond to questions from the public and directly counter misinformation about Covid-19 spreading online.

    The scheme has been backed by the United Nations’ Verified initiative, as well as the Vaccine Confidence Project and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

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    Melissa Fleming, UN under secretary-general for global communications, said: “Rampant misinformation has undermined public trust in vaccines. Team Halo is about reclaiming that trust.

    “These are incredible people doing exciting science as part of a global collaboration. We should be celebrating them helping us get to the end of this awful pandemic.”

    Bioengineer Dr Anna Blakney, who is part of the vaccine development team at Imperial College London, said the initiative was a way of “demystifying” the work being done around vaccines.

    “We are pioneering a new type of vaccine against Covid-19 in human clinical trials, and I’m excited to share some of the incredible science and people involved in my work,” she added.

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    “I’m used to spending time pipetting samples and analysing data. TikTok is a new frontier for me but I’m enthusiastic about demystifying our work and making it accessible to the world.”

    Micro-video sharing app TikTok was chosen as the primary social media partner for the scheme.

    Team Halo hopes it will allow the scientists to tell educational stories in engaging ways and make complex science available to a diverse audience across different age groups.

    The mini-blogging platform will particularly help Team Halo to reach younger audiences, with an estimated 13% of 12-15 year olds actively using the app according an Ofcom survey held last year, and Statista reporting that over a quarter of UK smartphone users aged between 18 and 24 were also using TikTok.

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    Matthew Harris, head of CSR and TikTok for Good in Europe said: “At a time when doctors and scientists around the world are working tirelessly to inform the public about the dangers of Covid-19 and their progress towards a vaccine, we welcome the use of #TeamHalo as a way to share content on the subject through TikTok.

    “TikTok allows for positive and creative expression and can help these everyday heroes educate and reach people in an engaging way while also helping our community stay safe and informed during these challenging times.”

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    About the author

    Niamh is a Sync NI writer with a previous background of working in FinTech and financial crime. She has a special interest in sports and emerging technologies. To connect with Niamh, feel free to send her an email or connect on Twitter.

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