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The Viral TikTok That Explains Vaccine Science — And Makes You Laugh

Video stills from Vick Krishna's viral video.
Vick Krishna/NPR
Video stills from Vick Krishna's viral video.

I've spent 30 years trying to make complicated science understandable. Explaining how vaccines work can be especially tricky. Explaining the new technology used in COVID-19 vaccines can be trickier still.

So my heart filled with joy and delight when I saw Vick Krishna's TikTok explaining how the vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna work. So simple. So straightforward. So well done.

And fun to watch. It's a horror film parody including a monster with spiky fork hands, people disappearing into thin air, a concerned scientist — the works. But the video is absolutely rated G.

If you can find a better way to explain why putting messenger RNA into a cell so it will make an antigen that will prompt the generation of neutralizing antibodies that will protect someone from COVID-19, I'd love to see it.

The best part: Krishna works at NPR as a development and operations engineer based in New York City.

NPR editor Suzette Lohmeyer caught up with the 32-year-old tech expert by day, videographer by night, to ask him a few questions about his video, which took just two days to film and edit but has garnered more than 6 million views on TikTok alone according to Fast Company.

What motivated you to make this TikTok?

I knew there was a lot of fear and misinformation about the vaccine, so I wanted to show in an entertaining way that this vaccine is not what they thought and ease their minds.

How did you come up with the idea of "fork hands" to represent the coronavirus spike protein?

So I was doing a lot of research on the vaccine, and the key component to it was the spike protein. There was a fork on my table where I was writing the skit, and that clicked for me. Fork = coronavirus spike protein.

Has making explainer videos been something you've been into for a while, or did you just start with this one?

I've been making TikToks since the start of the pandemic as a creative outlet. And I've attempted to explain a lot of current events, like India's farmers protest, in an easy way, along with just comedic skits.

How do you make the TikToks? And are you a solo act?

I just shoot these skits with my iPhone and edit on my PC by myself. I did have to ask my girlfriend to push the record button while I had "fork hands."

Any more COVID-19 ideas you're working on?

I am working on a video about why two doses are needed for the mRNA vaccine. I'm also trying to make a skit in support of #StopAAPIHate.

What are your future career plans? Something with film? Video?

My love is acting, and I'm a big dreamer. So hopefully I'll land in TV/film one day.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Joe Palca is a science correspondent for NPR. Since joining NPR in 1992, Palca has covered a range of science topics — everything from biomedical research to astronomy. He is currently focused on the eponymous series, "Joe's Big Idea." Stories in the series explore the minds and motivations of scientists and inventors. Palca is also the founder of NPR Scicommers – A science communication collective.