"Sesame Street" has entered the culture wars. There was swift kickback after "Sesame Street" launched a campaign to push for children as young as five to get the COVID-19 vaccine, which included a CNN town hall with the puppets. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) labeled the initiative to promote the pediatric COVID-19 vaccine as "government propaganda."
"Sesame Street" characters launched a coordinated campaign to promote the COVID-19 vaccine to kids last week. The initiative began days after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized the emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 through 11.
"Sesame Street" characters appeared on a CNN town hall on Saturday morning titled "The ABCs of COVID Vaccines." The town hall was hosted by CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta and CNN anchor Erica Hill, who answered questions about the pediatric COVID-19 vaccine from the hand puppets.
Beloved characters such as Big Bird, Elmo, Grover, and Oscar the Grouch advocated for children to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The official accounts posted messages on Twitter. Coincidentally, the social media platform requires people using the service to be 13 years of age or older.
"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!" the official Twitter account for Big Bird wrote.
Cruz reacted by writing, "Government propaganda...for your 5 year old!"
Other conservative commenters were concerned that the children's TV show was promoting the newly-approved COVID-19 vaccine for kids.
Newsmax host Steve Cortes: "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!"
Author Brigitte Gabriel: "Sesame Street is now indoctrinating toddlers. What a disgrace."
Political commentator Lauren Chen: "Who is the target of the Sesame Street vaccine outreach? Parents who trust Elmo & Big Bird with their children's medical decisions? Toddlers who are on Twitter and tune in to CNN? It makes no sense."
Podcast host Liz Wheeler: "I love how the same people who don't want us to listen to Joe Rogan & Aaron Rodgers about the covid vaccine, want us to listen to Big Bird & Elmo."
Radio host Larry O'Connor: "'Mommy, Daddy... Big Bird says I should get the shot to keep the Muppets safe! Why won't you let me get it?'"
Fox News contributor Lisa Boothe: "Brainwashing children who are not at risk from COVID. Twisted."
Previously, Joe Rogan questioned Gupta about the statistical risks of children being infected with COVID-19, which the neurosurgeon didn't offer many answers.
In U.S. children ages 5-11, there have been 94 COVID-19 deaths (1.7% of all deaths among U.S. children ages 5–11) between Jan. 1, 2020, and Oct. 18, 2021, according to the CDC.
Last week, Pfizer released a commercial that characterized young children who participated in the COVID-19 vaccine trial as "superheroes." The controversial commercial from the multinational pharmaceutical and biotechnology corporation was also described as "propaganda" aimed at children.