Alabama is turning to TikTok to help convince returning students to get vaccinated
Alabama ranks as the last state in the nation in COVID-19 vaccine rates, but one high school principal in Birmingham is doing everything he can to combat that.
Between February and June Principal of A.H Parker High School, Darrell Hudson, partnered with The University of Alabama at Birmingham to launch a vaccine site.
"It was a great opportunity to launch the site. We've always been more than a school in the community," Hudson tells Upworthy. "We feel good when any of our scholars decide to take the vaccine," he says. But, he adds that the number of students who're vaccinated is still quite low.
To keep the momentum going, two weeks before students returned to campus, Hudson and Parker High joined others in the Birmingham City Schools, in a social media campaign championed by the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH). A TikTok contest was launched for young people ages 13 to 29. Videos are themed "This is why I got vaccinated.," and on August 13, a panel of judges will announce four winners who will each be awarded a $250 Visa gift card.
The ADPH is hoping campaigns such as the TikTok contest will move the needle in getting the young vaccinated. Hudson says the students at Parker are excited about the contest.
"We've got some very creative scholars here and I can't wait to see what they come up with," Hudson says.
ADPH Assistant Health Officer Dr. Karen Landers told CNN's Jake Tapper that it's Alabamians between the ages of 12 and 49 who are the most adamant about not getting the vaccine.
"That's really where our problem is, reaching people who perceive that they're younger, they're healthier and therefore they don't need the vaccine, or continuing to buy into misinformation," Landers said.
Hudson told CNN that although most of his students are already vaccinated, some remain hesitant.
"We tried to educate them, but I've learned the best thing is to let them talk with the nurses," he said. "Let them talk with the scientists from a scientific standpoint."
"We have had some to come around," he added. "We do have some that are on the fence. And we have some that are pretty adamant about not going to take the vaccine, but we do try to educate our scholars. We've had this conversation with parents and guardians as well…But like I say, I think one of the best methods has been to let them talk with the nurses and individuals who have been doing this for a while, to give the pros and cons."
Photo by Hakan Nural on
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fewer than half of all Americans age 18 to 39 are fully vaccinated, compared with more than two-thirds of those over 50. And about 58 percent of those ages 12 through 17 have yet to receive a shot at all -- even though the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is authorized for most people age 12 and older.
On August 1, the White House enlisted a plethora of more than 50 Twitch streamers, YouTubers, and TikTokers with enormous online audiences to help push a pro-vaccine message and get jabs into the arms of young people.
According to a 2018 study by the marketing agency MuseFind, young people are more likely to trust their favorite social media influencer than a traditional celebrity.
"I know I won't stop until all my followers are safe and vaccinated," White House TikTok creator, Ellie Zeiler, 17, from Escondido, California told The New York Times.
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