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Big Bird got 'vaccinated' against COVID-19, drawing outrage from Republicans

Big Bird of Sesame Street attends the 2018 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 22, 2018 in New York City. His announcement about getting the COVID-19 vaccine elicited a mixed response.
Noam Galai
Big Bird of Sesame Street attends the 2018 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 22, 2018 in New York City. His announcement about getting the COVID-19 vaccine elicited a mixed response.

Big Bird ruffled some conservatives' feathers this weekend by announcing that he had been vaccinated against COVID-19.

The beloved Muppet tweeted on Saturday that he had gotten the shot, which is newly available for Americans between the ages of 5 and 11. Big Bird has been a fixture of children's television since 1969 but is officially 6 years old.

"My wing is feeling a little sore, but it'll give my body an extra protective boost that keeps me and others healthy," he wrote.

Twitter users sounded off in the comments, with many thanking the character for doing his part to keep Sesame Street safe and set a positive example for kids. President Biden and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky were among those who offered their thanks and praise.

Others were not as appreciative.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, decried Big Bird's tweet as "government propaganda."

Fox News contributor Lisa Boothe accused the Muppet of "brainwashing children," while Newsmax host and former Trump adviser Steve Cortes slammed the announcement as "evil" propaganda.

Both made false claims that children are not at risk of COVID-19. While most children infected with the virus exhibit only mild symptoms, experts say vaccines can prevent many infections and hospitalizations, as well as disruptions to schooling.

Other commenters denounced Big Bird as a puppet (literally) and communist. Lavern Spicer, a congressional candidate in Florida, wrote that "Big Bird & Elmo are at least a step UP from [Dr. Anthony] Fauci, but using them to push the drug is just as reprehensible nonetheless."

And some went much darker, like Tennessee congressional candidate Robby Starbuck and alt-right social media personality Mike Cernovich.

Many observers noted the irony of the pile-on, given that Big Bird is both a fictional character and one known for spreading messages of kindness and curiosity. Plus, they pointed out, this isn't the first time he's gotten vaccinated.

Big Bird himself said he had just learned that he had been getting vaccines since he was "a little bird."

An account called "Muppet Wiki" backed up those claims with a series of video clips from a 1972 episode in which Big Bird gets vaccinated against measles.

And Big Bird isn't the only young resident of Sesame Street to get the COVID-19 jab, either. The turquoise, bilingual muppet Rosita (who is apparently 5) also got vaccinated recently.

The two appeared on CNN — with Granny Bird, too — over the weekend to share their questions, experiences and tips about getting the shot.

This story originally appeared in the Morning Edition live blog.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.

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