Pop star Olivia Rodrigo might be the biggest name involved, but she’s not the only young influencer the Biden administration has enlisted to help promote COVID-19 vaccines to younger Americans.
What You Need To Know
- Pop star Olivia Rodrigo might be the biggest name involved, but she’s not the only young influencer the Biden administration has enlisted to help promote COVID-19 vaccines to younger Americans
- Dozens of Twitch streamers, YouTubers and TikTokers are helping the White House as it tries drum up vaccination numbers and combat the scourge of vaccine misinformation being spread on social media
- White House press secretary Jen Psaki has discussed the strategy in past briefings, saying the goal is “meet people where they are” by using influencers to spread accurate information with larger audiences
- Vaccines are currently available for Americans age 12 and older, but only about 58% of 12- to 17-year-olds have yet to receive a shot at all
Dozens of Twitch streamers, YouTubers and TikTokers are helping the White House as it tries drum up vaccination numbers and combat the scourge of vaccine misinformation being spread on social media.
In May, President Joe Biden and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the federal government’s top infectious disease expert and Biden’s chief medical adviser, hosted a YouTube town hall on vaccinations with make-up artist Manny MUA, wild-animal experts Brave Wilderness and beauty YouTuber Jackie Aina. Together, they have nearly 28 million subscribers on YouTube alone.
The social media stars asked questions about the vaccines. For anyone who wasn’t watching the actual town hall, the influencers shared excerpts on their own channels.
Their questions included whether the young really need the vaccine, whether the government would issue vaccine passports and what parents should know to alleviate their fears about getting their children vaccinated.
“I honestly don't even know where this opportunity came from,” Aina says in her YouTube video before interviewing Biden and Fauci. “I mean, probably from YouTube, I'm sure. But the team that reached out said that they were fans of me, and as it pertains to issues that relate to the Black community, they wanted someone of the youth to be a representative, so they chose me.”
In Rodrigo’s visit to the White House, she posed for photos with Biden, donned his trademark aviator sunglasses, interviewed Fauci and even spoke at the daily press briefing. The “Drivers License” singer, who has 14 million Instagram followers, shared video and photos from the trip on social media.
“It's important to have conversations with friends and family members, encouraging all communities to get vaccinated, and actually get to a vaccination site, which you can do more easily than ever before,” the 18-year-old Rodrigo said at the White House news briefing. She also directed people to vaccines.gov for more information about the shots.
According to The New York Times, the White House has teamed up with the firm Village Marketing and Made to Save, a national campaign aimed at promoting access to coronavirus vaccines, in using influencers to help with its message.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki has discussed the strategy in past briefings, saying the goal is to “meet people where they are” by using influencers to spread accurate information to larger audiences. Psaki also has acknowledged that, for some people, Biden is not the best messenger to ease their hesitancy about the vaccine and that other trusted voices can help reassure some people.
Biden and Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy both spoke last month about the challenges that vaccine information are creating in getting people vaccinated.
“Anyone listening to it is getting hurt by it,” Biden said at a CNN town hall in Cincinnati. “It's killing people. It's bad information."
Vaccines are currently available for Americans age 12 and older, but about 58% of 12- to 17-year-olds have yet to receive a shot at all.
Other influencers who have joined the White House’s campaign include TikTok stars Ellie Zeiler and Tinx, whose real name is Christina Najjar. Both, too, conducted interviews with Fauci and posted them to their accounts.
Zeiler, who has more than 10 million TikTok followers, also created a YouTube video in which she gave some reasons for why she got vaccinated and encouraged others to do the same.
“For me, getting vaccinated was one of the most gratifying feelings I felt probably in my entire life,” the 17-year-old said. “I walk around now and feel like I am guarded and safe by something.”
In her interview with Fauci, Najjar sought to walk the line between extracting helpful information and entertaining her nearly 250 million followers.
“I’m hearing about aliens overtaking our body (if vaccinated),” she said. “I’ve been working really hard on my body. I've been going to Pilates like three times a week. What is the best resource for truthful information?”
State and local governments, including in Colorado, New Jersey, Oklahoma and North Carolina, are similarly paying influencers with sizable but smaller audiences to help promote COVID-19 vaccines, The Times reported.