“Sesame Street” is promoting COVID-19 vaccines to children under 5 after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted emergency authorization to use the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech shots in young children earlier this month.
Elmo — the children show’s beloved three-year-old red Muppet character — received the COVID-19 vaccine in a new public service announcement released Tuesday by Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind “Sesame Street.” In a short video, Elmo’s Muppet dad Louie says he talked to their family pediatrician about having his son vaccinated.
“I had a lot of questions about Elmo getting the COVID vaccine. Was it safe? Was it the right decision?” Louie said in the PSA. “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.”
— Sesame Street (@Sesame Street)
The PSA directs parents of young children to go to GetVaccineAnswers.org if they have questions related to vaccinating their kids. It was produced in partnership with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
“Nearly 5.7 million child cases of COVID-19 have been reported nationally in 2022 alone, making vaccination an important step to protecting both kids and their families against the highly contagious virus and its variants,” Sesame Workshop said in a press release.
The FDA approved the vaccines for use in children under 5 years old earlier in June after an expert panel recommended the agency do so.
Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine may be administered as a primary series of two doses, one month apart, to infants as young as six months old through 17 years of age. A third primary dose is authorized to be administered one month after the second dose for immunocompromised children.
The Pfizer vaccine is given in three primary doses, with the first two doses administered three weeks apart and a third dose given eight weeks after the second dose for individuals six months through four years of age.
As of June 22, nearly 30% of children ages 5 to 11 and almost 60% of children ages 12 to 17 have been fully vaccinated, according to CDC data.
“As with all vaccines for any population, when authorizing COVID-19 vaccines intended for pediatric age groups, the FDA ensures that our evaluation and analysis of the data is rigorous and thorough,” FDA official Dr. Peter Marks said on June 17.
“In addition to making certain the data for these vaccines met FDA’s rigorous standards, the agency’s convening of an advisory committee was part of a transparent process to help the public have a clear understanding of the safety and effectiveness data supporting the authorization of these two vaccines for pediatric populations,” he added.
Sesame Workshop’s PSA is the continuation of a campaign the company launched last year to encourage adults and children to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who had previously called the nonprofit’s vaccine PSAs “government propaganda,” criticized “Sesame Street” for the new PSA with Elmo and asserted there is “ZERO scientific evidence” to support COVID-19 vaccination in young children.
— Ted Cruz (@Ted Cruz)
Cruz and a handful of other Republican lawmakers sent a letter to the FDA on June 8 requesting information to assess the risk COVID-19 poses to children under 5 and the necessity of vaccination for that age group.
Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, senior vice president of U.S. social impact at Sesame Workshop, said 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.”