Behold the new culture-war flashpoint, which has me wondering again how many populists who stridently oppose mandates are either anti-vaxxers looking for a more respectable way to frame their dissent or people eager to align with anti-vaxxers for their own selfish reasons. Ted Cruz always keeps one eye on the next presidential election and knows the competition will be stiff to be the most anti-vax-adjacent candidate in the race. Greg Abbott and Ron DeSantis have an advantage over him since they can set anti-mandate policy unilaterally in their home states. Cruz is left having to dunk on muppets to keep up.
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
Government propaganda…for your 5 year old! https://t.co/lKUlomnpq1
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) November 6, 2021
Which part of the Big Bird tweet is “propaganda”?
And which five-year-olds are scrolling Twitter and at risk of stumbling across it, indoctrinating them into the sinister belief that vaccines are nothing to be afraid of?
As far as I know, “Sesame Street” has yet to run any programming encouraging kids to get the COVID vaccine. The sum total of their efforts are the tweet above and a “family town hall” hosted on Saturday morning on CNN, another media platform that no child is at risk of encountering unless mom or dad sits them down to watch. A taste:
— The Recount (@therecount) November 7, 2021
CNN held a similar town hall last year to explain to kids what COVID is. And “Sesame Street” posted a segment this past spring about the benefits of adult vaccination for COVID, although I don’t know if that ran on the show itself or was a web-only feature. Either way, the target audience for their message on vaccinating kids (so far) isn’t the children themselves but their parents, who may be undecided on the shot but open to being influenced by a brand they trust deeply to have their kids’ best interests at heart.
The show *has* run pro-vaccination messages aimed at children before, though, practically from the beginning:
Big Bird gets vaccinated, 1972 pic.twitter.com/M2mdmmjZ0N
— Muppet Wiki (@MuppetWiki) November 6, 2021
When I was five, the prospect of being stuck with a needle was terrifying. I remember pleading with my parents not to make me do it. Go figure that a beloved kids’ show might anticipate that fear in its young audience and try to do what it can to put them at ease. Best-case scenario: A parent who intends to have their child vaccinated and is faced with the same tearful pleading might see the fear abate if Big Bird assures their little one that there’s nothing to be scared of. Worst-case scenario: A parent who intends not to have their child vaccinated is suddenly being pestered by their little one about getting the shot and ends up having to do something they already do 500 times a day, which is tell their kid “no.”
Frankly, I’d like to meet the pre-schooler who’s so gung ho to get their arm punctured by a needle on the advice of a muppet that they’ll start throwing tantrums if mom and dad refuse.
The best argument for distinguishing the COVID vaccine from other childhood vaccines is the risk/reward ratio. There is a risk, tiny though it may be, of children developing myocarditis after receiving an mRNA vaccine. Meanwhile, the risk of them falling seriously ill after being infected with COVID is minuscule. (Although they’re much more likely to develop myocarditis from COVID than from immunization.) Other childhood diseases for which we mandate vaccines have a much different risk/reward ratio. Don’t they?
We on the CDC ACIP just voted 14 to 0 in favor of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination for children aged 5 to 11. This helps explain why – pic.twitter.com/i2zRmMRcMH
— Camille Nelson Kotton (@KottonNelson) November 2, 2021
If people are wondering about Polio data, see CDC link
25% with flu like symptoms, full recovery
<1% develop flaccid paralysis
Death rates overall are very low
But much higher in adults who develop paralysis than among kidshttps://t.co/bEaghTAFn9
— Ashish K. Jha, MD, MPH (@ashishkjha) November 8, 2021
It’s true that children are at extremely low risk of a dire outcome from COVID but not true that COVID is unique in that respect vis-a-vis other kiddie illnesses. There’s only one compelling distinguishing factor between the COVID vaccine and more familiar vaccines: The COVID vaccine is brand new, employing innovative technology.
But every familiar vaccine was brand new at one point, too. And COVID itself is brand new. Whether kids (or adults) who are infected will have any long-term complications from it is a mystery for the moment. Some parents want to hedge against that risk by priming their child’s immune system to fight it off as quickly as possible. A little reassurance from Big Bird might make the process less of an ordeal for them.
I’ll leave you with this. In a country where 80 percent of adults have now had at least one shot, this seems like a smarter reaction politically than wheezing about “government propaganda” from a giant anthropomorphic bird.
Good on ya, @BigBird. Getting vaccinated is the best way to keep your whole neighborhood safe.
— President Biden (@POTUS) November 8, 2021