There’s a new TikTok star, and his name is Dr. Anthony Fauci.
“Tell all of your TikTok buddies to get vaccinated,” Fauci said this week in a video posted on TikTok by Nia Sioux, the social media and former “Dance Moms” star.
“I will, I’ll tell all my besties,” Sioux replied.
In the latest push from the White House and the US Department of Health and Human Services to boost youth vaccination rates, Fauci – who has become a household name during the Covid-19 pandemic through his role as the nation’s top infectious diseases expert – this week joined a number of TikTok personalities for a series of conversations about the importance of the Covid-19 vaccine.
TikTok – the short-form video app used by many young Americans – soared in popularity during the early days of the pandemic, and influencers on the platform have amassed major audiences.
By chatting with a group of TikTokers – who had between 794,000 and 24.1 million followers – Fauci went directly to young Americans across the country via their phone screens to answer questions and dispel common myths about the vaccine.
“There are multiple myths going on out there, from anything from aliens taking over your body to becoming magnetic to get[ting] a chip injected in you. It’s all nonsense, so please help us debunk that stuff,” Fauci said in a conversation with Mia Finney, who is 22 years old and a recent graduate of the University of Southern California.
For her part, Finney – who has 6.4 million followers on TikTok – said talking to Fauci was “kind of a surreal experience.”
Finney said she wanted to talk to Fauci because she knows a lot of young people who are hesitant to get the vaccine or don’t know if they should get vaccinated because they already had Covid-19.
“If you get Covid, recover and then get vaccinated, your level of protection will be extremely high. The (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) still recommends that even though you’ve been infected that you should get vaccinated for the extra degree of protection,” Fauci told her.
“I think it was important for me to give people that information,” Finney said. “At the end of the day, it’s everyone’s right to get the vaccine or not, but the fact that I was able to provide information for them I think was the greatest impact that I had.”
Kevin Munoz, a White House spokesperson, said the White House along with HHS helped connect Fauci to influencers with large youth audiences in an attempt at reaching that demographic.
The push on the social media platform comes after the White House last week acknowledged the US would fall short of President Joe Biden’s July Fourth Covid-19 vaccination goals, saying the country has more work to do to get younger Americans vaccinated. The President had aimed to get 70% of US adults at least one Covid-19 vaccine shot by Independence Day. According to the CDC, as of Friday before the holiday weekend, 67% of US adults had had at least one shot.
Vaccine coverage among young adults has been lower and is increasing more slowly than in other age groups in the United States, and the intent to be vaccinated is lower among younger adults, according to studies published last month by the CDC.
If the weekly pace of vaccinations continues at the same rate as the week of May 22, only 57.5% of adults under age 30 will have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine by the end of August.
From the White House Covid-19 College Vaccine Challenge – an initiative to get colleges involved in the push to vaccinate young Americans – to a partnership with Snapchat and incentives such as free bagels, burritos and meditations for those who have been vaccinated, the Biden administration has taken a number of steps to reach young Americans with information about the importance of getting the vaccine.
The White House also built a Covid-19 student community corps to equip young people with tools to go into their communities and talk about getting vaccinated.
“The goal of the student community corps is to one, recognize the power that young people have to not only get vaccinated, but to help their peers get vaccinated. And it’s also to recognize that inherent in that power is the fact that young people often want to hear from other young people,” Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said last month.
Like the students involved in the corps, TikTokers have the ability to share information with their followers.
Abby Howard, who along with her husband, Matt, has gained traction for couples content on TikTok, said the couple’s main goal in posting a video with Fauci was to relay accurate information about the vaccine.
“There’s so much misinformation, and we just want to be a part of sharing good information. People can do with that information what they will, but that was our approach in doing so. Hopefully many will see, and the information will lead to more younger people getting vaccinated,” she said.
CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, Kate Sullivan and Betsy Klein contributed to this report.