Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and other conservatives have blasted Sesame Street favorite Big Bird for claiming to have gotten a COVID vaccine in what they say is propaganda to encourage kids to get the shot.
The fictional bird, who, according to Sesame Street lore, is eternally 6-years-old, tweeted his vaccination status on Saturday, writing: ‘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.’
He added that CNN journalist Erica Hill ‘even said I’ve been getting vaccines since I was a little bird. I had no idea!’
But Cruz was among those happy with Big Bird’s medical disclosure, and quote tweeted the comment with ‘Government propaganda for your 5 year old.’ Big Bird issued the tweet days after the FDA approved Pfizer’s COVID vaccine for children aged five to 11, with critics accusing the character of trying to foist shots on kids.
In his tweet, Big Bird said the vaccine will ‘give my body an extra protective boost that keeps me and others healthy’
Cruz called the tweet ‘government propaganda for your 5 year old’
Big Bird, who is eternally six-years-old, according to Sesame Street lore, tweeted on Saturday that he received the COVID vaccine
Sen. Ted Cruz, of Texas, was one of several conservatives who took to Twitter to criticize the Bird for getting the vaccine
COVID is generally believed to pose little risk to children, with CDC statistics showing that just 680 of America’s 745,000 COVID fatalities are aged between 0 and 18.
Vaccines, while generally very safe, can also cause side effects including heart inflammation among kids, with some experts questioning whether the protection they give outweighs the risk of side effects, or the likely harmless nature of a COVID infection for young children.
The tweets also sparked criticism from other conservatives, like FOX News host Lisa Boothe who said it was ‘brainwashing children who are not at risk from COVID,’ and Newsmax host Steve Cortes, who wrote: ‘This kind of propaganda is actually evil.
‘Your children are not statistically at risk, and should not be pressured into a brand new treatment. Do not comply!’
Cruz’s comment was itself the subject of criticism, including from Parkland school massacre survivor turned gun control advocate David Hogg.
Hogg wrote: ‘Ted Cruz is doing the job of our enemies by spreading more disinformation that’s killed over 200,000 Americans this year.
‘I can not believe an actual sitting senator would tweet this,’ he added.
Hogg also responded directly to Cruz’s tweet, recalling the senator’s controversial trip to Cancun, Mexico as Texas endured a deadly winter storm.
‘At least it’s acceptable for birds to fly south for the winter – unlike some senators who left millions of their constituents to f****** die in the cold.’
Rep. Eric Swalwell, a Democrat from California, also wrote: ‘Imagine coming down harder on a fictional bird than the man who called your wife ugly,’ referring to former President Donald Trump, who Cruz campaigned for after losing the Republican nomination in 2020.
And Walter Shaub, a former head of the Office of Government Ethics, reminded Cruz: ‘You are vaccinated.’
Many parents who’ve themselves been vaccinated say their desire not to vaccinate young children is not an anti-vax position, but instead the result of weighing up the potential benefits and pitfalls of getting the shot.
Others pointed out that Sesame Street now airs on HBO, not public access channel PBS as it used to, while some noted that Big Bird has been active in child immunization campaigns stretching back to the 1970s.
Sarah Wire, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, added that Sesame Street has helped children understand the COVID pandemic.
‘Sesame Street has spoken to kids about the pandemic in ways they understand since the beginning, explaining how to wash hands and wear a mask or why they couldn’t go to preschool or see grandma,’ she wrote.
‘Kids seeing six-year-old Big Bird get a shot helps them understand what is happening.’
In response to the criticism, Cruz again tweeted: ‘Liberals are weird.
‘They don’t care about open borders. Or rising inflation. Or schools covering up sexual assaults. Or the disaster of Afghanistan. Or tyrannical Dems violating medical pricacy and freedom.
‘But criticize Big Bird? And they lose their s***.’
Cruz soon received backlash for his tweet attacking Big Bird
In response to the criticism, Cruz wrote that ‘liberals are weird’
The controversy over Big Bird’s vaccination status comes days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s advisory committee officially recommended Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for children aged five to 11.
The members of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted unanimously on Tuesday that pediatric doses be distributed in this younger age group.
CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky then signed off on the vote, meaning that approximately 28 million children in the US are now eligible for the shots.
It was the final step in the process that would allow injections in young children to begin in the United States, with President Joe Biden issuing a statement calling the decision ‘a turning point’ in the battle against COVID-19 and saying they had secured enough vaccines for every child in America.
With the decision, the United States became one of the first countries to approve vaccinations for children.
China has reportedly started rolling out its own vaccines to three-year-old children, and Chile is vaccinating children aged six and older. Israel, meanwhile, is expected to follow the US’ lead now the CDC has approved the jabs.
However, these countries are currently the exception, with countries still weighing up the risks and benefits of the decision. Most are only vaccinating children aged 12 and upwards.
In Britain, scientists have warned against officials ‘blindly’ recommending the jabs to young children without weighing up the risks ‘extremely carefully’.
There are also still fears about myocarditis, a form of heart inflammation detected in children, mostly boys, in around one in 10,000 cases after vaccination.
Critics say children are better off catching COVID and getting protection naturally because the risk of being admitted to ICU is about one in 500,000.
The CDC last week approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for use among children ages five to 11, although some parents remain hesitant about giving their children vaccines
Meanwhile, in America, the decision has caused a storm of controversy with opponents pointing to the fact there is little evidence to suggest vaccinating children is necessary.
Data shows COVID poses a low risk to the age group, with children accounting for less than 0.1 percent of COVID deaths in America.
There have been more than 1.9 million cases of Covid-19 among five- to 11-year-olds in the United States, and more than 8,300 hospitalizations, more than 2,300 cases of MIS-C (pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome), and about 100 deaths.
With those statistics, some parents have said they are hesitant to get their children vaccinated.
New survey data published on Thursday from the Kaiser Family Foundation found 27 percent of parents with kids aged five to 11 say that their children will get vaccinated as soon as it’s available.
Another 33 percent say they will ‘wait and see’ how the vaccine is working before deciding whether or not to immunize their kids.
And five percent of parents in the survey said they will only get their children vaccinated if it is required by their schools and 30 percent say they will not get their kids vaccinated at all.
As of Saturday, 67.2 percent of eligible Americans have had at least one dose of the COVID vaccine and 58.3 percent were fully vaccinated.
It did not have data on how many children between the ages of five to 11 have been vaccinated yet.
Meanwhile, there were 71,517 new COVID cases reported on Friday, with 1,604 new deaths.