“I had a lot of questions about Elmo getting the covid vaccine. Was it safe? Was it the right decision? I talked to our pediatrician so I could make the right choice,” Louie says to the camera in a clip shared online Tuesday. “I learned that Elmo getting vaccinated is the best way to keep himself, our friends, neighbors and everyone else healthy and enjoying the things they love,” he adds, before hugging Elmo.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) shared the clip on Twitter — and blasted the popular PBS/HBO children’s show for allowing Elmo to “aggressively advocate for vaccinating children UNDER 5.” He added: “You cite ZERO scientific evidence for this.”
The internet was quick to comment on Cruz v. Elmo, with one person tweeting: “I’m here for the right-wing meltdown because a puppet got vaccinated.”
The Food and Drug Administration granted emergency-use authorization to coronavirus vaccines for the under 5′s earlier this month. It cleared two vaccines — one by Moderna and the other by Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech — for smaller doses than adults.
Cruz, along with other Republicans, was seeking more answers from the government before the authorization of the vaccines for this age group. In the Centers for Disease Control announcement, it said the child vaccines have undergone “the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history.”
The FDA has also said the vaccine shots are “safe” and “effective” but added that along with the CDC it would put several systems in place to “continually monitor COVID-19 vaccine safety and allow for the timely detection and investigation of potential safety concerns.”
According to the latest data from the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than 13 million child cases of covid-19 have been reported since the pandemic began, making up almost 19 percent of all cases — with long term impacts on children’s health and social well-being.
This isn’t the first time Cruz has had a run in with a high-profile Sesame Street star. He criticized Big Bird last year, when the yellow-feathered creature got his coronavirus vaccine — a rift that led to a Saturday Night Live parody.
“My wing is feeling a little sore, but it’ll give my body an extra protective boost that keeps me and others healthy,” said Big Bird, age 6, after his shot. Cruz tweeted the act was “government propaganda.” President Biden also weighed in, tweeting: “Good on ya, @BigBird. Getting vaccinated is the best way to keep your whole neighborhood safe.”
In a statement Tuesday, Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street, said the public service advertisement featuring Elmo was produced in partnership with the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics. The clip, broadcast in both English and Spanish, is part of a series of resources for parents and caregivers “to answer common questions in age-appropriate ways,” the organization said.
The nonprofit added that almost 5.7 million child cases of coronavirus were reported in the United States in 2022, “making vaccination an important step to protecting both kids and their families,” it said.
Some on Twitter berated Cruz for tweeting about the popular kid’s show during the Jan 6. Committee hearings on Tuesday, questioning: “Why is a U.S. Senator watching Sesame Street instead of doing his job?” The hearing saw former White House official, Cassidy Hutchinson, reveal explosive new details recounting private conversations about President Donald Trump’s actions on Jan. 6, 2021.
Some parents said the show had inspired their own children: “Thank you, Elmo! My little girl just got her first dose! I’ll share your video too, so she gets all those good vibes you’re sending.”
Others appeared to agree with Cruz. One user said: “I blocked them, It’s gross. No more sesame street for my house.”
The Emmy-award winning American show, beloved by many preschoolers and their families, has been on air since 1969 with popular inhabitants of the neighborhood including the Cookie Monster, Bert & Ernie and Grover. It is now broadcast across more than 150 countries and often features celebrities.
“Many parents understandably have questions about the COVID-19 vaccines for young children, and we want to encourage them to ask questions and seek out information,” said Jeanette Betancourt, senior vice president of U.S. Social Impact at Sesame Workshop in a statement.
“With help from Elmo and his dad Louie, we want to model real conversations, encourage parents’ questions, and help children know what to expect,” she added.
Sesame Street has a long history for taking on social or hot-button issues and political guests.
Among them Jesse Jackson in 1971 who led a group of children to recite the poem, “I Am Somebody,” and Barbara Bush who was the first first lady to appear on the show in 1990 (followed by Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, Michelle Obama and Jill Biden but not Melania Trump.)
Kofi Annan became the first United Nations’ Secretary General to visit the fictional Manhattan street to mediate a dispute between muppets all wanting to sing the alphabet song.
During the 2012 presidential election, Republican candidate Mitt Romney sparked headlines when he said that although he liked Big Bird he wouldn’t be in favor of continuing the government subsidy to PBS if he were elected president.
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