DeKalb, IL — When Jordan Tralins noticed misinformation spreading across social media earlier this year about the COVID-19 vaccine, she decided to take action.
Tralins along with Olivia Pawlowski, both students at Cornell University, decided to start the COVID Campus Coalition in January in an effort to combat misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine. More importantly, Tralins and Pawlowski wanted to provide college students across the country with accurate information they can understand.
“Most people our age don't spend their free time sifting through scientific literature to formulate opinions about how they feel about COVID vaccines,” Tralins said. “They really look at what's on their social media, and that impacts the way that they feel, and so from that thought I created the COVID Campus Coalition.”
Tralins spent time reading through various articles on COVID-19 vaccines and planning on how she would effectively spread factual information online for college students. She said she worked with Pawlowski, who specialized in graphic design, to create social media that would be engaging to young people.
Seven or eight months later, more than 30 universities nationwide, and one internationally, have ambassadors for COVID Campus Coalition, Tralins said. The coalition posts weekly infographics on its main Cornell Covid Campus Coalition Instagram and posts to TikTok to target a larger audience to creatively share COVID-19 vaccine facts.
In addition to posting weekly, all of the coalition chapters meet monthly via Zoom where ambassadors discuss the COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy they’re each seeing on campus and how they can work to fix it.
“We're able to see what students are curious to learn more about, what they’re feeling hesitant or uncomfortable about, and from that we're able to really go find the facts to provide to them, and that's been really impactful for students,” Tralins said.
Tralins said it’s been especially challenging on TikTok to spread awareness on COVID-19 vaccines because there are often users who “refuse to believe science.”
“There were there was a time when I was first started the coalition, where I was receiving a lot of pretty negative comments on those TikToks that were not related to the science or the facts at all that were more personally coming for me and coming for the vaccines and turning it into almost a political issue which I think is pretty unfortunate,” Tralins said. “It was very discouraging at first, but it ultimately encouraged me to continue getting those facts out there.”
Despite negative comments, Tralins said she thinks that herself, along with the other 30 ambassadors, are doing impactful work by having difficult conversations with those on campus.
“Although getting vaccinated is absolutely a personal choice, it's not as simple as a personal impact, Tralins said. “I really think that's something that a lot of young people are missing, and that's something that we as a coalition are working to target in order to put an end to this pandemic.”