The Texas senator Ted Cruz led conservatives in condemnation of a much-loved public figure for advocating Covid-19 vaccinations for children. Big Bird.
This week saw final US approval for five- to 11-year-olds to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine. Sesame Street, which has offered Covid advice before, duly deployed its popular characters to encourage parents to protect their children.
Big Bird, who despite his vast size and to some slightly overbearing mien is according to the beloved show perpetually six-and-a-half-years-old, announced on Saturday that he had been vaccinated.
“I got the Covid-19 vaccine today!” the hulkingly benevolent yellow avian announced, using an appropriate communications platform, Twitter.
“My wing is feeling a little sore, but it’ll give my body an extra protective boost that keeps me and others healthy. [CNN reporter] Erica Hill even said I’ve been getting vaccines since I was a little bird. I had no idea!”
Cruz responded: “Government propaganda … for your 5 year old!”
Other rightwingers piled in. Lisa Boothe, a Fox News contributor, said “brainwashing children who are not at risk from Covid” was “twisted”.
Children are at risk from Covid, if less so than adults. In October, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said 66 children aged between five and 11 had died from Covid-19 in the US. Children can infect others and infections in the five to 11 age group are rising, the CDC said, accounting for 10.6% of new Covid cases.
Undeterred, Steve Cortes, a host on the conservative Newsmax network, said of Big Bird’s tweet: “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!”
Resistance to vaccine mandates and other Covid public health measures persists in Republican states, despite a US death toll of more than 753,000 from a caseload of almost 46.5m.
On Saturday, a conservative judge in New Orleans issued a temporary stay on a federal rule which says businesses with more than 100 employees must demand vaccinations or weekly testing. The Biden administration said it was confident it would prevail.
Cruz, who recently made headlines by defending the first amendment right to give Nazi salutes at school board meetings, seemed to enjoy his work on the day’s active front in the broiling culture war.
He also 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 Dem[ocrat]s violating medical privacy and freedom.
“But criticise Big Bird? And they lose their sh[it].”
The bad news for Cruz was that Big Bird seems unlikely to stop his public health advocacy, which he has pursued for years. In 1972, for example, he helped tell children: “Don’t wait, vaccinate!”
As the Twitter account Muppet Wiki – “fans and professionals working together to build the best resource about the Muppets, Sesame Street and Jim Henson” – put it: “Big Bird is so polite. Be like Big Bird.”