After a beloved “Sesame Street” character announced on social media that he had gotten vaccinated against coronavirus, several conservative pundits and politicians denounced the public service announcement as “propaganda,” errantly claiming it would cause harm to kids.
Big Bird, a tall yellow bird from the PBS program “Sesame Street,” tweeted (pun intended) over the weekend that he had received a COVID vaccination.
Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gave children ages 5 to 11 the go-ahead to get a smaller dosage version of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for protection against coronavirus. The character of Big Bird, who has been entertaining and educating children for several decades, is six years old on the show.
“I got the COVID-19 vaccine today!” the character tweeted on Saturday. “My wing is feeling a little sore, but it’ll give my body an extra protective boost that keeps me and others healthy.”
Big Bird’s tweet garnered criticism from a number of right-wing figures, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
“Government propaganda…for your 5 year old!” Cruz wrote on Twitter.
The Texas Senator wasn’t the only one upset over the anthropomorphic puppet’s promotion of vaccines. A Republican running for Congress in Tennessee suggested that Big Bird would die because of the vaccine, while a Republican senator from Arizona accused the puppet of being a communist.
Fox News personality Lisa Boothe also derided Big Bird’s vaccination status. “Brainwashing children who are not at risk from COVID. Twisted,” Boothe wrote.
These criticisms run counter to what research and real-world findings on vaccines have demonstrated. The risk of children being harmed by the vaccine is incredibly small, while the benefits of vaccinating children are enormous. The Pfizer vaccine is 91 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 in children ages 5-11.
Despite disinformation from Republicans, children are not free from risk when it comes to coronavirus. Children currently account for more than 16 percent of all coronavirus cases being reported in the U.S, and nearly 900 kids in the U.S. have died due to COVID-19 since the pandemic began. Meanwhile, the long-term effects of the virus in kids are not yet understood.
While many conservatives condemned the character for getting vaccinated, a number of public figures offered their congratulations.
“Good on ya, @BigBird. Getting vaccinated is the best way to keep your whole neighborhood safe,” President Joe Biden tweeted in response to the character’s post.
CDC director Rochelle Walensky called Big Bird “brave” for getting the shot.
The “Sesame Street” character has educated children on important topics in ways they can easily comprehend for generations, including vaccinations. Many Twitter users shared video clips of Big Bird getting a vaccination decades ago, long before the current pandemic began.