Jefferson Health 'TikTok doctor' shares social media messaging strategy for COVID-19 vaccine education

As the U.S. kicks off its $250 million mass vaccination campaign, Austin Chiang, MD, chief medical social media officer at Jefferson Health, shared with The New York Times advice for communicating with the public online about COVID-19 vaccine education. 

Dr. Chiang, who is also a practicing gastroenterologist at the Philadelphia-based health system, during his free time creates short videos on COVID-19 infection rates, colon cancer symptoms, screenings and more on the popular social media platform. 

When it comes to reaching a sometimes-skeptical public about vaccine education, Dr. Chiang told the Times it's important for health professionals to be upfront about the information they don't know. Here are three quotes from Dr. Chiang from the Dec. 14 report: 

1. On how he might approach vaccine education on social media: "It's tricky. When we talk about vaccines as health professionals, people who are vehemently anti-vaccine can take it out of context for their agenda. That makes me hold back sometimes. The approach that I try to take is to leave room for the gray. If you say vaccines don't cause any harm and are the best things in the world, it can alienate people who are vaccine hesitant. If we instead acknowledge that there are risks just like anything else in medicine and life, it’s a more effective message."

2. On how he might approach COVID-19 vaccine education on TikTok: "For coronavirus vaccines, I would probably do something with a voice over that explains my own reasons for getting vaccinated, and lays out the side effects and the risk-benefit analysis I’ve done in my mind and what we gain from the vaccine." 

3. On why he creates TikTok videos: "Part of what I'm trying to do is humanize our profession. I try to showcase being fun but also professional, and hopefully people can learn something. As doctors, we don't get any marketing or communications training, and yet we’re expected to contribute to our community and to public health. We have to meet patients where they are, and communicate information in interesting and digestible ways. One of the things that I'm passionate about outside of my clinical work is encouraging more of my colleagues to use social media." 

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