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Meet the scientists on TikTok challenging conspiracy theories and misinformation surrounding the COVID-19 vaccines

·3 min read
Team Halo
Dr. Asher Williams, Dr. Paul F. McKay and Dr. Anna Blakney of Team Halo. TikTok
  • Scientists on TikTok are showing how COVID-19 vaccines are made.

  • Team Halo's aim is to make science more approachable for people that otherwise might be intimidated.

  • It is part of a UN-backed initiative to be transparent and combat misinformation.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

As anti-vaxx conspiracy theories continue to flood social media, scientists are taking to TikTok to show how COVID-19 vaccines are made as part of a UN-backed initiative to combat misinformation.

Team Halo is a collective of volunteers who make videos about their role in the vaccine creation process and answer their viewers' questions.

Dr. Anna Blakney, an RNA vaccine scientist with 210.5K followers, told Insider: "The goal of Team Halo is to connect scientists and clinicians working on COVID-19 directly with the general public to promote transparency about how we make and test vaccines.

"I think by being able to make videos about what exactly we do in the lab and with information coming directly from scientists, it builds trust with people that may be hesitant to get vaccines.

"TikTok is a very palatable platform, you only have 15 or 60 seconds and it has to be engaging, so I think it makes science a lot more approachable for people that otherwise might be intimidated."

One of Dr. Blakney's most popular videos is her enthusiastic rendition of Dolly Parton's '9 to 5' called 'Vaccines 9 to 5' featuring her day at the lab.

Dr. Paul F. McKay made Imperial College's saRNA vaccine candidate and is a member of Team Halo. He told Insider: "It's actually not always the intention but inaccuracies can be believed as being the facts and that's why scientists and medics must have a platform to address these."

He often posts videos with his 'science chihuahua,' including this one. Dr. McKay explains why a coronavirus vaccine might not be suitable for everyone, such as those undergoing cancer therapies.

Team Halo is a response to the vaccine misinformation on social media that has skyrocketed during the pandemic. A Center for Countering Digital Hate study found that less than 5% of posts flagged are dealt with.

Responding to the growing criticism, Gina Hernandez, Trust & Safety Product Manager at TikTok, announced this week that the app would introduce banner warnings on "inauthentic, misleading or false content" to limit the spread of such misinformation while being reviewed for removal.

TikTok introduces banner warnings on "inauthentic, misleading or false content." TikTok

The myth-buster

Dr. Asher Williams, a chemical engineer, known for her myth-busting videos across social media platforms and a Team Halo member told Insider: "The fight to vaccinate the general population, particularly high-risk groups and people of color, by ensuring they have access to factual information, is also a fight for justice.

"Associating some sort of charge with knowingly and repeatedly spreading false information about vaccines can serve as a deterrent, and people may be more hesitant to post fake health news or other misinformation without first fact-check and verifying their validity."

Dr. Asher's most recent video deals with whether coronavirus vaccines include microchips to control the population.

Team Halo was created by The Vaccine Confidence Project at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and is backed by the UN Verified Initiative and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

Read the original article on Insider

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