Doctors are busting social media myths about the pandemic via informing TikTok videos.
As statistics show that young adults are the least vaccinated group in many countries, doctors have decided to use social media to reach to them and fight the widespread misinformation they are victims of.
Speaking to Unilad, NHS general surgeon Amalina Bakri, one of the medics who are now on a mission to spread correct information about the pandemic, said:
“Social media is a huge part of people’s lives, especially to young people, so they are more susceptible to misinformation. When I spoke to some of these people – the younger generation – and asked them the reason why they were hesitant, it’s because they received messages over the internet or by WhatsApp and chain messages, and even on TikTok about the vaccine.”
Before the pandemic, Dr. Bakri, who has more than a million social media followers, was famous for debunking celebrity-endorsed health products.
However, in the past months, she has shifted her work into busting myths and conspiracy theories about the pandemic. As for her decision to use TikTok as a tool, she says:
“Making short fun simple videos that people can easily tune in to, that are easily understandable and not too complicated.”
Another expert, Dr. Bnar Talabani, a kidney transplant specialist and immunology scientist, adds:
“As we were moving down the age groups I realised that the hesitancy and the concerns were different for younger people than they were for older people.”
Dr. Talabani, like Dr. Bakri, is one of 75 medical professionals under the umbrella of the United Nations Team Halo campaign who use social media platforms to combat vaccine misinformation. She explains:
“A lot of the misinformation is spread on the internet via those platforms, so it makes sense that we take to those platforms to spread the accurate information.”
The Centre for Countering Digital Hate states that more than two-thirds of social media anti-vax misinformation comes from just several organizations.
The conspiracy theories spread by the groups cited by CCDH have forced governments to work twice as hard to convince people of all age groups to get vaccinated. Dr. Bakri says:
“[Hesitancy] is understandable because the vaccine is a new thing and people are concerned and they are worried about it. And so it is our duty as healthcare professionals and also scientists who understand the science behind it to explain.”
Dr. Talabani adds:
“If somebody has genuine concerns and is willing to engage in dialogue, I do make the time to listen to their concerns in a really non-judgmental way because actually that carries much more weight and is much more powerful than saying ‘no, you’re wrong.’
But where I’ve tried to engage and there’s just been nothing but rudeness and [comments like] ‘you’re going to hang for your crimes’ or ‘you should have your medical license taken away’… for those ones I do block and report them.”
One of the most common social media myths about the pandemic appears to be that there is a link between the vaccines and infertility.
Both Dr. Bakri and Dr. Talabani have made videos addressing the fact that there is no scientific evidence suggesting any relation between vaccines and infertility or miscarriage.
Another reason why many refuse to get vaccinated is the common belief that the immune systems of young adults are strong enough to fight the virus unaided. Additionally, people are widely convinced that the vaccines were rushed, even though this statement has allegedly been disproven by science.
Both experts claim they have received messages from people who have decided to get vaccinated after watching their informing videos.
Dr. Bakri says:
“Normally what works best is to just listen to people’s concerns. I would normally do an Instagram live Q&A session, TikTok live [or] answering questions on Twitter, to provide a platform where the public can ask questions.”
Dr. Talabani continues:
“It’s nice to have a conversation with someone and say actually I’m not going to tell you what to do but I will give you the evidence and the science so you can decide for yourself. A lot of people don’t expect a response but when I say I’m going to get back to you I mean it.”