Let 2021 forever be known as the year that anti-vaxxers started arguing with puppets. During the pandemic, a slew of child-friendly teddy bears, characters, and puppets have been given the COVID-19 vaccine, in a tradition that dates back to at least the 1970s. The latest puppet to publicly advocate for vaccines is Sesame Street's Big Bird, angering anti-vaxxers and right-wing politicians in equal measure.
After appearing on CNN asking questions about the COVID-19 vaccines for children, Big Bird announced on Twitter that he had had his jab and was experiencing only the mild side-effect of a sore wing.
Now, as is the way of the Internet, some people were annoyed with Big Bird waiting this long to get the vaccine, given that he is 52 years old, and has been eligible for quite some time now. Speculation was rife that Sesame Street had made the vaccine mandatory, and he held out as long as he could.
It gets more confusing though, as Big Bird was filmed lining up to get his measles vaccine back in 1972.
Leaving aside Big Bird's nightmare existence as a perpetual six-year-old, this historical participation in vaccination campaigns has not gone down well with anti-vaxxers and various right-wing politicians and pundits in the US. Texas senator Ted Cruz was one of the first to attempt to argue with the six-year-old puppet, calling the tweet "Government propaganda... for your 5-year-old!".
In one of the (non-intentional) funniest dunks of recent months, author James A. Lindsay accused Big Bird of "being a Communofascist medical tyrant".
We genuinely can't include a lot of the responses because they include too many C- and F-bombs, as well as copious amounts of vaccine misinformation. However, it would be remiss of us not to inform you that a real adult sat down and typed the sentence: "I never thought I'd have to tell my niece that Big Bird sold his soul to the [Chinese Communist Party] and is trying to hurt her, but here we are." Another human adult accused Big Bird of being bought by Big Pharma.
On the other hand, we are now also at the stage where US presidents congratulate puppets for getting vaccinated.
As mentioned, health campaigns that utilize well-known figures to reassure adults and children of the safety of immunizations date back a long time. Elvis Presley gave the SALK polio vaccine a huge boost in 1956, getting it himself on camera, while in the late 1970s Star Wars's R2D2 and C3PO advocated for childhood immunizations despite being robots.
Big Bird might be the latest to get his shot, but he will likely not be the last puppet or fictional character to do so. So brace yourself, readers, for a world where anti-vaxxers spend time and energy arguing with puppets.