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They’re no strangers to “going viral”. But in pandemic times, influencers have emerged as a surprisingly powerful voice in spreading the pro-vaccination message far and wide.

New data released by influencer analytics platform HypeAuditor shows that between January and July, more than 200 Australian influencers shared 300 positive posts about the vaccine, reaching a combined 3.8 million people. While August data is not yet available, levaquin law suites the company is reporting a rapid increase in social media posts this month.

From left to right: Abbie Chatfield, Adam Liaw and Tully Smyth share vaccine selfies.Credit:Instagram

Posts with hashtags such as #getvaccinated and #getthevax were examined, finding TV personality Carrie Bickmore, chef Adam Liaw and writer Clementine Ford had the highest reach.

A scroll through Instagram also reveals celebrities such as comedians Hamish Blake and Celeste Barber drawing in tonnes of likes – and plenty of heated dislikes – for their vaccine selfies. Lifestyle influencers, such as Tully Smyth and Olivia Rogers, have also pulled thousands of eyeballs.

Even radio presenter Kyle Sandilands has jumped on board with his spin on Vanilla Ice’s 90s hit Ice Ice Baby, which begins: “Stop, vaccinate and listen.”

While influencers have traditionally had a reputation for bikini shots and well, being a touch shallow, HypeAuditor chief executive Alexander Frolov says that perception has changed dramatically in the past couple of years, as brands realise their power. When it comes to getting vaccinated, he says influencers can have a huge sway over their younger followers.

“So many influencers feel like it’s their duty to use their platform for good and spread the message,” Frolov says.

“What we’ve been seeing as well, is that for the influencers who have been very vocal about the importance of getting vaccinated, they are not afraid to lose followers.”

Dr Jessica Kaufman, a research fellow in the Vaccine Uptake Group at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, says for much of the pandemic, government messaging about the vaccine has been missing in action, dry or not targeted enough.

It’s why she says influencers and celebrities are a welcome addition, if they’re sharing their own personal stories and highlighting credible sources.

“People don’t like to think that they are swayed by what influencers say or what celebrities say, but there’s a reason they’re called influencers,” Kaufman says.

She says if you notice celebrities around your age – or even your own friends – posting ‘vaxxies’, you’re likely to think everyone around you is getting the jab, and book an appointment.

For some influencers, Kaufman says it’s about giving a platform to scientists or other experts. She points to Clementine Ford’s posts, which begin with her personal vaccination story, an approach Dr Kaufman describes as “really impactful”.

“(Since then) she’s really been using her platform to repost easily digestible chunks of information from doctors and epidemiologists.”

Speaking broadly, Dr Kaufman cautions influencers against getting into fights in the comments or staging a “pile-on” of those who are hesitant about getting the vaccine.

For reality star Abbie Chatfield, who has 295,000 Instagram followers, the decision to weigh into the debate was “just common sense”. The 26-year-old, who lives in Sydney, had her first AstraZeneca jab in late July.

In a tongue-in-cheek Instagram post, she said: “Got the vaccine, I actually look hotter” and “I’ll let you know if the government control my mind.”

She also answered questions from her fans – mainly women aged 18 to 34 – such as: “Did it hurt?”

Being part of the Sydney lockdown had encouraged Chatfield to keep discussing the vaccines publicly.

“I think the anti-vaxxers are screaming so loud that we think it’s a half-and-half debate, but evidently with the amount of vaccination numbers it’s not.”

While there has been some backlash, including nasty messages and people encouraging sponsors (unsuccessfully) to dump her, Chatfield says that’s been in the minority – and she’s gained thousands of new followers.

Sam Kelly, managing director at agency Hello Social, says influencers have become a strong voice in the vaccination debate. Might that still be a surprise to some? “I think the notion of influencers in bikinis – we’ve come a long, long way from that,” he says.

Kelly says that Australian influencers are posting pro-vaccine content off their own bat, rather than as part of a paid government campaign like in the US or the UK.

“The fact that people are putting it in their own words and sharing their own personal stories means the messaging is more effective.”

Kelly says social media is a “window to the world” – and that’s particularly heightened when many of us are in lockdown.

His company’s research shows that the average Australian under 30 follows more than 100 influencers on Instagram.

“So when you combine that with the fact that a lot of people are trusting social networks to guide their decision-making processes, you’d have to think that a fair few people are being exposed to this influencer messaging for good.”

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