When the U.S. began distributing COVID-19 vaccines this winter, Jordan Tralins ’23 found it odd that her social media feeds didn’t have any factual information about the shots.
“I remember seeing a video on Tik Tok of a nurse fainting after she received it, but the video didn’t explain this nurse was prone to fainting,” she said. “Other than anecdotes and conspiracy theories, there wasn’t much out there. The lack of information specifically targeted toward college students really surprised me.”
Tralins, a Human Biology, Health and Society major, decided to do something about it. She reached out to Olivia Pawlowski ’22, a Biology and Society major with a background in graphic design. Together, they launched accounts on the video-sharing network Tik Tok and the photo-sharing network Instagram to promote reputable scientific literature about the vaccines on platforms relevant to Cornell students.
Since then, their initiative – which they named the COVID Campus Coalition – has exploded nationally. Students from more than 20 universities from around the country have signed onto the project and are sharing their posts. Tralins was interviewed by CNN's John King on Inside Politics this week in his coverage of efforts to combat vaccine misinformation.
Justin Tralins on CNN
The duo, now joined by Policy Analysis and Management student Lily Goldberger ’23, sift through the latest research on the vaccines each week and then create an interesting graphic or video to promote it.
Tralins says the project has taught her the power of scientific community and the importance of tailoring information to younger generations. “Most people our age don’t spend their time sifting through scientific literature to make decisions,” she said. “But I enjoy doing that and I want to share what I learn.”
Students from other universities learned about the project when Tralins posted about it on the professional networking site LinkedIn and invited students from other universities to create their own COVID coalition accounts. Now the team customizes their regular posts with each university’s name and school colors. Account owners at other universities also share local information about vaccine clinics available to students.
“It’s been so exciting to see how many students across the country are excited by COVID vaccines and want to share the most reliable information to help fight conspiracies and provide students the tools they need to make decisions and educate their friends and families,” Tralins said. “The whole purpose is to promote student vaccination so we can put an end to this pandemic sooner rather than later.”
Early in the process, Tralins had the opportunity to receive the vaccine herself because she is a trail running instructor with Cornell Outdoor Education. “I was so excited,” she said. “It was pretty interesting to learn so much about the mechanisms behind how the vaccine works and then to get vaccinated.”