Children and teenagers use social media to have fun, make and maintain friendships, share interests, explore identities and share their concerns about COVID-19 vaccines.
Believing that their immune system is strong enough to fight the virus unaided, or that the vaccines were rushed, young people remain the least vaccinated group in the UK, with around 70% of them taking the jab so far.
To dispel these myths, two Muslim doctors are using social media, especially teens’ favorite TikTok, to reach out to the young people.
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“Social media is a huge part of people’s lives, especially to young people, so they are more susceptible to misinformation,” says NHS general surgeon Amalina Bakri, Unilad reported.
“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.”
Dr. Bakri is one of Gen Z’s go-to healthcare experts. Before the pandemic, she was well known for her work debunking celebrity-endorsed pseudoscientific health products.
For the past 9 months, she has been dispelling the seemingly endless flow of myths and conspiracy theories about the Covid-19 vaccines.
Dr Bakri works with Dr. Bnar Talabani, a kidney transplant specialist and immunology scientist from Wales, and 75 medical professionals under the umbrella of the United Nations’ ‘Team Halo‘ campaign who use TikTok and Instagram to combat vaccine misinformation.
“I basically just focus on communicating and explaining the science with evidence-based medicine… making short fun simple videos that people can easily tune in to, that are easily understandable and not too complicated,” Dr. Talabani, a member of Muslim Doctors Cymru, added.
Her work has been successful so far, changing the minds of many sceptic young people.
“Normally what works best is to just listen to people’s concerns,” Dr. Bakri says. “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.”
“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,” Dr. Talabani says.
“A lot of people don’t expect a response but when I say I’m going to get back to you I mean it.”
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) instructed Muslims to seek medical treatments: “Make use of medical treatment, for Allah has not created a disease without appointing a remedy for it.” (Abu Dawud)
Over the past months, UK Muslim leaders opened vaccine centers inside mosques and worked tirelessly to counter misinformation about vaccines.
In June 2021, UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock praised the Muslim community over its efforts in the COVID vaccination drive.