The nonprofit educational organisation behind the long-running PBS program Sesame Street released the PSA on 28 June, in collaboration with the Ad Council, COVID Collaborative’s COVID-19 Vaccine Education Initiativeââ, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The new PSA comes after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently authorised Covid-19 vaccinations for children ages six months to five years old.
The one-minute video stars Elmo – who had recently received his first Covid-19 vaccine – alongside his father, Louie. His dad shared his questions about the vaccine for children five years and under (Elmo is three-and-a-half, according to Sesame Workshop). But he encouraged parents to speak with their pediatrician or healthcare provider for the latest facts about vaccines.
“There was a little pinch, but it was okay,” Elmo said in the ad.
“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 said. “I learned that Elmo getting vaccinated is the best way to keep himself, our friends, neighbours and everyone else healthy and enjoying the things they love.”
Last week, the CDC announced that all children between the ages of six months and five years could start receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines. Following the CDC recommendation, the FDA soon authorised the two vaccines for children under five.
“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 Dr Jeanette Betancourt, senior vice president of US 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.”
Elmo got the COVID vaccine today, just like Elmo's mommy and daddy! Elmo's daddy had a lot of questions, but Elmo's doctor said the vaccine would help keep Elmo healthy, and all of Elmo's friends and family too! #CaringForEachOther https://t.co/do2AcvCfMg
— Elmo (@elmo) June 28, 2022
However, the PSA angered some critics on social media, including Texas senator Ted Cruz, who targeted the show on Twitter for not citing “scientific evidence”.
“Thanks, @sesamestreet 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,” he tweeted on Tuesday.
Thanks, @sesamestreet 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. Learn more:https://t.co/Ss20TmFTSB https://t.co/tr67QyfRyC
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) June 28, 2022
After the FDA approved vaccine administration for children five years old and younger, Cruz penned a letter along with 18 other members of Congress questioning the validity of the vaccine.
“We are in our third year with COVID-19, and we know vastly more about the virus now than we did in 2020. One of the most important things we know is that this virus poses minimal risk for children,” Senator Cruz said in a statement. “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.”
This was not the first time the Republication congressman has taken a stand against the beloved children’s television program. Cruz took a shot at fellow Sesame Street character Big Bird for promoting “government propaganda” after the six-year-old bird received his first COVID vaccination shot in a PSA last December.
According to the CDC, the new authorisation will expand eligibility for vaccination to nearly 20 million additional children. Children under five will be considered fully vaccination with two doses of the Moderna vaccine given four weeks apart, or three doses of the Pfizer vaccine given three weeks apart a third dose administered at least eight weeks after the second dose.