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Meet the scientists fighting misinformation and educating people about COVID vaccines

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By The Cube
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This undated file photo issued by the University of Oxford on Monday, Nov. 23, 2020, shows of vial of coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University
This undated file photo issued by the University of Oxford on Monday, Nov. 23, 2020, shows of vial of coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University   -   Copyright  Credit: AP
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A group of scientists have taken to social media to battle misinformation around COVID-19 vaccines.

Team Halo, which features specialists from across the world, are using Twitter and TikTok to answer people's questions.

The World Health Organization says social media has been used during the coronavirus outbreak to "amplify an infodemic" of misinformation around the disease.

Now, with Europe gearing up to receive its first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, attention has turned to making sure people know all the facts.

"Obviously there is scepticism out there and I really don't think that is a bad thing," said Dr Anna Blakney, a research fellow at Imperial College London and a member of Team Halo. "People really should question [the] development of new treatments and what they put into their bodies, but someone has to be on the other side of the conversation answering the questions and saying 'here is how we do it, here is what's true'."

Dr Blakney told Euronews one of the most frequent questions was around concerns about the speed of development of the vaccine.

"All of these platforms that are currently the front runners for COVID-19 vaccines have actually been developed for years," she said. "The really nice thing about these technologies is that they can easily be pivoted to a new indication.

"It's a global pandemic, it's affecting people and this has caused all the scientists, pharma companies and clinicians to be able to focus on one single thing which has enabled the clinical trials to just to be organised and happen faster than they normally would.

"These are pretty standard vaccines, lots of them have been tested in a number of clinical trials and the safety profile is pretty well known. Of course, that doesn't mean that a new vaccine is immediately safe but that is why we do the clinical trials.

"The whole first phase of the clinical trial is just looking at the safety, it's not even seeing if it works yet."

Team Halo was established in partnership with The Vaccine Confidence Project at the University of London’s School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

You can listen to more from Dr Blakney in the video player, above.