Saturday, November 27

Lip sync and facts: Pacific doctors fight misinformation on TikTok


In an effort to vaccinate more people in the Pacific, a group of doctors have taken to TikTok and Instagram to spread the word.

A GROUP OF YOUNG PACIFIC PHYSICIANS HAVE BEEN USING THEIR SAVVY SOCIAL MEDIA TO PROMOTE THE VACCINE AND DISMANTLE MYTHS.

A group of young Pacific doctors have been using their knowledge of social media to promote the vaccine and debunk myths.
Photo: Tina tiller

Singing “vax-a-nation time come on” to the tune of ‘Celebration’ with a broom handle microphone and her kitchen as a backdrop might not make Dr. Vanisi Prescott famous on TikTok. But the way the Mt Roskill Tongan doctor sees it, re-assembling Kool and the Gang’s classic ’80s hit might be what a vaccinated person needs to see. And Prescott is not the only Auckland medical professional employing these tactics. Prescott is part of a small group of young Pacific doctors who use their knowledge of social media and their limited free time to promote the Covid vaccine and debunk myths.

Prescott, who works at Stoddard Road Medical Center, Mt Roskill Grammar and the Three Kings Accident and Medical Clinic, says the long hours and wasted time with your children will be worth it if you can help your community protect itself against the worst effects of the virus.

“The confinement has been quite overwhelming,” says the mother of three. “Trying to educate our community and our youth, in addition to work, has been pretty crazy and I basically had to sacrifice family time to spread the word and advocate. [for people to get vaccinated]. “

She says that using TikTok was initially just a way to let her hair down by doing some fun dances with her daughters, but it has quickly become an important tool in her work to encourage those still unsure about getting vaccinated.

“My daughter is 12 and on TikTok quite a bit, so I wanted to get involved with what she was up to,” he says. “Then all the misinformation began to circulate [about Covid] I thought, wait a minute, this will be a good opportunity to really reach out to those who are not listening to the news or the media. “

Prescott’s page, which has grown to over 24,000 followers in the last 18 months, not only features his hearty singing, but also showcases his dancing skills and answers to questions like “Does the mRNA vaccine change my DNA? “

In addition to her full-time role as Māngere’s GP, Dr. Emma Chang-Wai has in recent months begun adding weekend periods at emerging vaccination sites and patient controls at MIQ. Like Prescott, she is active on social media, but Instagram is her preferred platform. Chang-Wai has more than 5,000 followers, and while he initially used his videos to inspire others with his own 30kg weight loss journey, he has also switched to Covid-related content. She says that because there is “great mistrust in the system,” she felt it was necessary to combat misinformation and be “visible in this space” as a local Pacific doctor.

Ōtara Family and Christian Health Center Dr. Va’aiga Autagavaia is relatively new to TikTok, but between clinic shifts and raising two children under the age of three, he has started making videos on how to protect himself and his Covid-19 community. She made the decision to go active on social media after seeing a post accusing Pacific doctors of only vaccinating to protect their jobs.

He has also spoken to various churches, workplaces, and community groups through Zoom, events that, according to him, “have been really good because they show that there is a clear desire from communities who want to know more and hear from doctors like us.” .

“I have just been trying to promote an open and respectful discussion on this topic and have been amazed at how many people respond positively.”

However, not everything has been positive. Prescott and Chang-Wai say their videos have also brought out the ugly side of social media.

“I got a lot of positive feedback initially, but when I started posting about Covid and the vaccine, so much hatred and negativity washed over me,” Prescott says.

“I have received a lot of threats, like people saying that they will come looking for me if something goes wrong. [with the vaccine] or to be reported. But I have learned to ignore it and think about our people and that we have to get this message out to as many people as possible. “

FROM THE LEFT;  DR VA'AIGA AUTAGAVAIA, DR VANISI PRESCOTT AND DR EMMA CHANG-WAI HAVE BEEN USING SOCIAL MEDIA TO MAKE SURE THEIR PATIENTS ARE WELL INFORMED.

From left to right: Dr. Va’aiga Autagavaia, Dr. Vanisi Prescott and Dr. Emma Chang.
Photo: Supplied

Chang-Wai says negative feedback is one of the reasons most doctors aren’t doing similar things, but she feels that as a Pacific doctor, she has an additional obligation. “The easiest thing for me would be to just live my life, but it’s very difficult for me to just sit back and say nothing. This is our protection and we have to assure our people that this is the right thing to do.”

All of which makes affirmation reactions that much more meaningful, Prescott says. “I’ve had people tell me, ‘If it weren’t for you Pacific doctors talking about this, I wouldn’t have gotten vaccinated.’ .

Given the added stress in your spare time, do you resent the government for not releasing more pro-vaccination messages to your Pacific community?

“We are not doing this to get paid, and while we are doing it out of love and care for our patients, it probably should have been a formal campaign, not just now, but one that was proactively implemented a long time ago.”

While he is pleased to see Pacific vaccination rates approaching 90 percent, Autagavaia is also concerned about the unintended consequences of requiring mandatory vaccination for people in certain industries.

“When you are receiving a mandate and your livelihood is at stake, of course you will get it. But what I hear from my patients, family and friends is that this has done a lot of damage to their trust in the authorities. cure soon or once the pandemic is over, which is really sad. “

But despite the distrust and division that has been sown in recent months, doctors know that their public efforts will pay off in saving more lives. They also want to encourage others to help share the same messages, even if it means getting a bad lip sync in the process.

“I know there are people employed to do this kind of thing,” says Chang-Wai. “But I also think it’s important that these messages come from our people who are really working in these spaces.”

Autagavaia is less optimistic, noting that delays in launching the vaccine to people in the Pacific have given more time for misinformation and conspiracy theories to take hold.

“We are not doing this to get paid and while we are doing it out of love and care for our patients, it probably should have been a formal campaign not only now, but one that was proactively implemented a long time ago.”

Despite the fact that vaccination rates in the Pacific have risen as much as 90 percent, Autagavaia is also concerned about the long-term effects that the obligation to vaccinate people will have in certain industries.

“When you are receiving a mandate and your livelihood is at stake, of course you will get it, but what I hear from my patients, family and friends is that this has done a lot of damage to their trust in authorities and I do not think that will recover anytime soon. or once the pandemic is over, which is really sad. “

But despite the distrust and division that has been sown in recent months, doctors know that more lives will be worth saving. They also want to encourage others to help share the same messages, even if it means getting a bad lip sync in the process.

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