Ted Cruz Trolls Sesame Street’s Elmo Over Covid-19 Vaccines For Kids Under 5

Looks like Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) wasn’t too tickled by what Elmo did. On Tuesday, Sesame Street posted a video of Elmo talking about getting vaccinated against Covid-19. And just three hours later, Cruz attempted to put a figurative wet “BLAAANKEEET” on the whole thing. Cruz accused the longstanding children’s show of having Elmo “aggressively advocate for vaccinating children UNDER 5.”

Sure, Elmo refers to himself in the third person way too often. But what prompted Cruz to go after yet another Sesame Street character? This came just seven months after Cruz seemed to have a bird about what Big Bird had said about Covid-19 vaccines, as I had covered for Forbes. Well, here’s the Sesame tweet with the video that earned the Cruz missile:

As you can see, the video featured Elmo and his father Louie, who unlike Elmo sported a goatee and wore clothes. After Louie had called Elmo “super-duper” for getting vaccinated against Covid-19, Elmo responded that it was “a little pinch, but it was okay.” Louie then turned to the camera and explained, “I had a lot of questions about Elmo getting the Covid vaccine. Was it safe? Was it the right decision?” Louie continued with, “I talked to our pediatrician so I could make the right choice. 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.”

Now, Elmo is listed as three-years old, which would make this year the 42nd year that Elmo’s been that age since debuting as a Sesame Street muppet character in 1980. It’s not clear what medical condition has delayed Elmo’s growth. Nevertheless, being three-years-old would put Elmo in the age group that is newly eligible for the Covid-19 vaccines. On June 17, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that they had granted emergency use authorization (EUA) for the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine for those six months through 17 years of age and for the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for those six months through four years of age.

Yet, in the following tweet response to the video, Cruz, who is not a scientist, said, “But you cite ZERO scientific evidence for” vaccinating children under five:

OK, granted Sesame Street doesn’t always provide hard scientific evidence behind everything that their characters do, such as Oscar the Grouch spending most of his time in a garbage can without developing a skin infection. But in this case, Sesame Street and Elmo were talking about vaccines that had received EUAs from the FDA. And such EUAs never come with “ZERO scientific evidence.” The FDA announcement did mention, for example, a clinical trial that found the two-dose regimen of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine to be 50.6% effective in preventing Covid-19 among those six through 23 months of age and 36.8% effective among those two through five years of age. Pfizer has reported that their three-dose vaccine was 80.3% effective in preventing symptomatic Covid-19 among kids under five years of age.

In his tweet, Cruz included a link to his website that included a link to a letter dated June 7 signed by him, Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin). Rep. Bill Posey (R-Florida), Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colorado) and 13 other Republican Members of Congress to FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf, M.D. The letter argued against the FDA granting EUAs for kids under five years of age. To support their argument, the letter cited studies that have suggested that children have had “a 99.98% Covid-19 survival rate” and that “68% of children 1-4 years of age are SARS-COV2 seropositive – meaning that they have previously had COVID-19.”

But this letter neglected to mention several key reasons for vaccinating kids under five years of age. First of all, deaths aren’t the only concern with Covid-19. For example, there’s long Covid. A study published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health found that kids under four years of age who had been infected with SARS-CoV-2 were 1.78 times as likely to have had a long Covid symptom lasting more than two months as those who hadn’t been infected. Secondly, previously having Covid-19 doesn’t necessarily offer the same level of protection that vaccination does, as I described previously for Forbes. Thirdly, vaccinating kids doesn’t just protect the kids themselves. It protects all of the adults around them. When a kid doesn’t develop Covid-19 or has less severe Covid-19, he or she may shed either no virus or less of the virus. This may reduce the risk of infecting others. This may be especially important for kids under five because they typically aren’t great at keeping themselves from infecting others. Telling a three year old to wash his or her hands frequently and thoroughly, maintain social distancing, and warn others about symptoms can be like telling a Senator to stop playing politics.

Finally, the Covid-19 pandemic is not over. Over the past 14 days across the U.S., the average number of daily Covid-19 cases reported has gone up by 7% to 112,464, the average number of daily Covid-19-related hospitalizations by 7% to 32,195, and the average number of daily Covid-19-related deaths by 18% up to 388, according to data from the New York Times. Yet, some politicians continue to rail against Covid-19 precautions such as vaccination and face mask wearing without providing viable alternatives. In other words, by spending time trolling Big Bird and Elmo, Cruz doesn’t seem to be providing a way to the end of the pandemic. But he sure seems to know his way to Sesame Street.

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