Katrine Wallace, an epidemiologist and adjunct assistant professor at the University of Illinois Chicago, joined TikTok at the start of the pandemic for the same reason we all did: She was bored and got sucked into the app’s endless scroll of funny dog and cat videos and viral trends.
Unfortunately, in between clips of people’s feta pasta and dance challenges, she saw a ton of COVID-19 misinformation.
“As an epidemiologist who is trained on how to read the scientific literature and data, I just couldn’t let it go unchecked without trying to set the record straight,” said Wallace, who goes by @epidemiologistkat on TikTok.
She started debunking the wildest claims, and soon, her follower count and the number of views on her videos began to grow massively. She currently has over 194,000 followers and counting.
“I think it showed that people have a real thirst for evidence-based information,” she told HuffPost. “Now the misinformation has largely moved from COVID-19 itself to the vaccines, so the need to counter misinformation is still present, if not even greater than before.”
Wallace is one of many medical professionals and scientists using TikTok to unpack vaccine news and debunk myths (which are plentiful on the platform). Sometimes this is done through straight fact-checking videos, sometimes through trending TikTok dances and lip-syncs.
For Wallace, the videos are a way to do her part to demystify the vaccine ― though she admits that sometimes being a medical content creator is like having a second job.
Still, she said, it’s worth all the effort when she hears from people saying they showed one of her videos to a co-worker or a loved one who then decided to get vaccinated.
“I’ll get a message from someone who lives in a small town where no one wears a mask, and they will tell me that I’m the only person that makes them feel sane,” she said. “The people who let me know I’m making a difference mean the world to me, and motivate me to keep going.”
HuffPost chatted with Wallace and several other medical practitioners and scientists who are using TikTok to educate the general public.
Experts are still learning about COVID-19. The information in this story is what was known or available as of publication, but guidance can change as scientists discover more about the virus. Please check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most updated recommendations.