How Jefferson Health's social media chief is addressing vaccine hesitancy among Gen Z

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Austin Chiang, MD, chief medical social media officer at Philadelphia-based Jefferson Health, has been using social media app TikTok to engage with Generation Z on a range of COVID-19 topics including vaccinations and CDC guidelines, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports. 

Generation Z, which includes those born between 1997 and 2012, is appearing to lose interest in COVID-19 vaccines, according to the April 19 report. A recent STAT-Harris poll found that 21 percent of Gen Zers said they would not get the vaccine, while another 34 percent said they would wait and see before getting vaccinated. 

Dr. Chiang, who also leads Jefferson Health's endoscopic bariatric program, started using TikTok in 2019. Soon after joining the app, he said he realized he could "put [his] own health twist on some of the trends and dances," while sharing public health information. 

"When the pandemic hit, all eyes were on health professionals, especially early last year," Dr. Chiang said. "Everyone was looking for COVID information. I was livestreaming several times a week to answer questions." 

Dr. Chiang regularly posts videos about new pandemic guidelines from the CDC, and in January he made a video using a popular dance trend to share his reaction to the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine with his nearly 400,000 followers. He used the video to explain that the symptoms he was experiencing were normal and meant that his immune system was working, he told the publication. 

"People have short attention spans, including myself," Dr. Chiang said. "When I make videos, I always think, 'Is this something I would find funny or interesting?'" 

Dr. Chiang also tries to engage with those who comment on his videos and show genuine curiosity. He said he is less likely to respond to comments showing a lot of anti-vaccine sentiment because he doesn't want the situation to "become really contentious." 

"When things turn ugly, it further erodes trust in healthcare because we become heated and emotional in our conversations," he said.

 

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