“Sesame Street” is advertising COVID-19 vaccines to its youngest audiences after the federal government greenlighted the shots for children under the age of 5.
The 1-minute public service ad, released Tuesday by nonprofit educational organization Sesame Workshop, features the red Muppet monster Elmo and his Muppet dad Louie. It begins with Elmo showing a Band-Aid on his arm next to dad, saying, “Now Daddy has super-duper bandages just like Elmo!”
It’s okay to have questions about COVID-19 vaccines for children! Elmo’s dad Louie talked to their pediatrician, and learned that Elmo getting vaccinated is the best way to keep him and his whole neighborhood safe and healthy! #CaringForEachOther pic.twitter.com/aWkCfysJPE
— Sesame Street (@sesamestreet) June 28, 2022
“You were super duper today, getting your COVID vaccine, Elmo,” replied a Louie who has three Band-Aids on his arm, indicating having received two vaccine shots and a booster.
“There was a little pinch, but it was OK,” Elmo added.
Louie then turned to the audience, saying that he had a conversation with their family pediatrician about whether it is safe to vaccinate 3-year-old Elmo.
“I had a lot of questions about Elmo getting the COVID vaccine. Was it safe? Was it the right decision?” Louie spoke to parents watching the ad. “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.”
The ad, which is co-produced with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and New York-based media company Ad Council, ends by directing parents to go to GetVaccineAnswers.org if they have questions related to having their young children vaccinated. The website is created by Ad Council in partnership with the CDC.
Jeanette Betancourt, senior vice president of U.S. social impact at Sesame Workshop, said in a press release that parents will “understandably have questions about the COVID-19 vaccines for young children.
“With help from Elmo and his dad Louie, we want to model real conversations, encourage parents’ questions, and help children know what to expect,” Betancourt said. “We’re proud to continue our efforts with the Ad Council, COVID Collaborative, CDC, and AAP to help families get connected to information and keep their children, neighbors, and communities safe and healthy.”
I got the COVID-19 vaccine today! My wing is feeling a little sore, but it’ll give my body an extra protective boost that keeps me and others healthy.
Ms. @EricaRHill even said I’ve been getting vaccines since I was a little bird. I had no idea!
— Big Bird (@BigBird) November 6, 2021
Sesame Workshop’s new ad is the continuation of a campaign it launched last year to promote COVID-19 vaccine to older children. In November, “Sesame Street” characters appeared on a CNN town hall titled “The ABCs of COVID Vaccines.” The program was hosted by CNN anchor Erica Hill and chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta, who answered questions about the pediatric vaccine from the Muppets.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who last year took issue with using beloved children’s show to convince young children to take the jab and called it “government propaganda,” criticized the new ad for promoting something that is not at all backed by science.
“Thanks, [Sesame Street] for saying parents are allowed to have questions! You then have [Elmo] aggressively advocate for vaccinating children UNDER 5. But you cite ZERO scientific evidence for this,” the senator wrote on Twitter.
Cruz is one of the 18 Republican members of Congress who questioned the safety and necessity of the COVID-19 vaccines for the youngest Americans when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency use authorization (EUA) to the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech’s pediatric shots in early June.
“When will the FDA and CDC provide the public with more details on those children who have had the most serious adverse outcomes from COVID-19 infections?” the Republicans asked in a Jun. 7 letter (pdf) to the FDA. “What is the cardiac risk factor in administering these EUA COVID vaccines to children?”
“One of the most important things we know is that this virus poses minimal risk for children,” Cruz said in a press release. “Before the FDA approves an Emergency Use Authorization for a children’s vaccine, parents should be able to see the data and paperwork they would use to justify this decision. This is the least the FDA can do for families in Texas and across the country so parents can make the best decisions for their children.”
According to CDC, as of June 22, about 30 percent of children ages 5 to 11 and 60 percent of children ages 12 to 17 had been fully vaccinated.