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How TikTok is helping to demystify the science around the coronavirus vaccine

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To the tune of Dolly Parton’s legendary song, Dr Anna Blakney – a bioengineer developing the Covid-19 vaccine at Imperial College London – trills on TikTok: “Jump into my lab coat, this job’s not boring. Working on vaccines, the world needs restoring. Folks need me on the job from 9 to 5. Vaccines 9 to 5, what a way to make a livin’.”

The joyful video gets your foot tapping while you peek behind the scenes into Dr Blakney’s lab life as a frontline scientist in the global race to vaccinate against Covid-19.

Demystifying the science around Covid-19

The researcher has become a sensation on our platform with more than 212,500 followers; her videos have amassed nearly three million likes.

In them, Dr Blakney shows how the vaccines are actually made and tested in the lab, she demystifies the science around the coronavirus and debunks myths about the vaccine’s risks and effectiveness – sometimes involving a dance challenge simultaneously, and often with addictively catchy soundtracks that make learning about vaccines a seat-dancing experience.

The researcher, who also answers users’ questions via the comment section, says she is more used to pipetting samples and analysing data but is enthusiastic about the new frontier of TikTok and excited to share some of the incredible science and people involved in her work.

TeamHalo working together to build confidence in the vaccine

Dr Blakney is not alone. She is one of a group of leading scientists and clinicians across the world posting on social media platforms under the #TeamHalo hashtag, their mission to build confidence in the vaccine by shedding light on its development and rollout processes in accessible ways.

Think less graphs and charts, more down-to-earth explanations from a trusted expert source, all within our 60-second video format and elevated by ingenious backing tracks and fun visuals.

TikTok is a safe space for expressing creativity and sharing joy

Our community has swelled over the past year, with more and more people drawn by the safe space the platform offers for expressing creativity and sharing joy during such a challenging time.

It’s a privilege that we can harness that network to help spread accurate information about Covid-19 among our users and combat misinformation. But the real credit goes to the everyday heroes creating these posts – they are educating and reaching people in engaging ways, while helping TikTokers stay safe and informed.

As the founder of the Vaccine Confidence Project at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Heidi Larson, says, “Team Halo allows scientists to explain the latest cutting-edge science that will lead us out of this pandemic, while showing them to be normal, caring human beings like the rest of us.”

Working with the World Health Organisation on mythbusting content

Taking responsibility for keeping our community safe has been key at TikTok during the health pandemic. We have also worked with experts including the World Health Organisation on mythbusting content, launched public service announcements on hashtags and donated £5 million to the Royal College of Nursing’s Covid-19 Healthcare Support Appeal.

It’s inspiring to be part of something so entertaining and uplifting that can harness its popular appeal to create positive change. Using TikTok for good is a no brainer; I look forward to us working with more organisations across sectors to build a brighter future together. 

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