It all started when Sesame Street’s beloved Big Bird shared his big news on social media.
“I got the Covid-19 vaccine today!” said a post from the big guy’s official Twitter account on Saturday.
“My wing is feeling a little sore, but it’ll give my body an extra protective boost that keeps me and others healthy … I’ve been getting vaccines since I was a little bird. I had no idea!”
Big Bird probably also had no idea that his vaccination message would send American politician Ted Cruz into a fever, but the US senator’s reaction certainly suggests his feathers were mighty ruffled by Big Bird’s announcement.
An apparently furious Senator Cruz – a member of the Republican party who has campaigned* against mandatory* vaccinations but is vaccinated himself – retweeted Big Bird’s message but added: “Government propaganda* … for your five-year-old!”
Well, not exactly. Sesame Street was originally government funded until 1981, but has since been produced by an independent company.
Nonetheless, the show has always been firmly focused on educating children around the world – particularly those with less access to early education – and the benefits of vaccinations have been broadcast* on the program for almost 50 years.
In response to Mr Cruz’s tweet, other users of the platform circulated an image of Big Bird holding a card advertising the “Sesame Street child immunisation program”. One user shared a clip from 1972 showing Big Bird approaching a stall displaying a sign that reads, “Don’t wait – vaccinate”. The American President at the time was Republican Richard Nixon.
And while everyone’s favourite walking, talking, giant yellow bird was eligible* because he’s six and the lifesaving jab was approved in the US last week for kids aged five to 11, the vaccine’s approval does not apply in Australia yet as regulatory* authorities continue to attend to independent due process.
Back in the US, Big Bird, Elmo and other Sesame Street characters appeared on a Saturday morning CNN program called The ABCs of Covid Vaccines.
Big Bird from Sesame Street gets the Covid vaccine
Fellow Sesame Street character Rosita – a furry, turquoise, Mexican monster – was also inoculated* against Covid-19 last Friday.
Unfortunately, Elmo, who is just 3, isn’t yet old enough to get his Covid shot.
“Elmo was so happy to talk to @DrSanjayGupta at the town hall today! Elmo learned that Elmo’s friends can get the Covid-19 vaccine now, and soon Elmo can too!” the pint-sized character tweeted early on Saturday.
Last month, Mr Cruz also criticised the Australian government’s handling of the pandemic.
He shared a video of NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner announcing fines for people who don’t comply* with tough vaccine rules in the territory.
“I love the Aussies,” Mr Cruz posted. “Their history of rugged independence is legendary; I’ve always said Australia is the Texas of the Pacific.
“The Covid tyranny* of their current government is disgraceful and sad. Individual liberty matters. I stand with the people of Australia.”
At the time, Mr Gunner defended his approach to Covid.
“Hey Ted Cruz, g’day from the Northern Territory in Australia. Here are some facts. Nearly 70,000 Texans have tragically died from Covid. There have been zero deaths in the Territory. Did you know that?” he wrote.
The Covid-19 death toll in Texas has since passed 72,000 people.
In his October response, Mr Gunner went on to explain that vaccination was key to the protection of vulnerable* Aboriginal people, “the oldest continuous living culture on the planet”.
“We’ve done whatever it takes to protect the Territory. That’s kept us safe AND free. We have been in lockdown for just eight days in 18 months. Our businesses and schools are all open. Did you know that?” he said.
- campaigned: worked for or against an issue, argued, fought, lobbied
- mandatory: required, compulsory, non-negotiable
- propaganda: information or ideas spread to help or harm people, institutions, nations etc
- broadcast: transmitted, shown, shared, aired, relayed
- eligible: permitted, allowed, qualified
- regulatory: official body that check whether something works according to rules or laws
- inoculated: treated with a vaccine to produce immunity against disease
- comply: obey, act in accordance, meet expected standards
- tyranny: cruel, unfair government in which a person or group of people have excessive power over everyone else
- vulnerable: weak and without protection, easily hurt or harmed
- How old is Big Bird?
- Sesame Street has been independently produced since what year?
- Why hasn’t Elmo been vaccinated?
- Why doesn’t the approval to administer the vaccine to five to 11 year olds apply in Australia?
- How many people have now died of Covid-19 in Texas?
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1. Create a character
Australian kids under 12 cannot get a Covid vaccine at the moment. Think of another issue that you think Aussie preschool kids need to understand and can do something about. Create a fun Australian character, like the characters in Sesame Street. Draw or describe your character. Write the script of a short TV advertisement where your character helps preschool kids understand your issue and what they can do to help.
Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Health and Physical Education; Visual Communication Design
Do you think a politician from any other country has any right to criticise what our federal, state and territory governments do? Write down as many points for and against this question that you can think of. Think of examples when you think this would be the wrong thing or might be the right thing to do.
Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; History; Civics and Citizenship
Opener up-level it
Make a list of all the openers in the article. Pick three that repeat and see if you can replace them with another word, or shuffle the order of the sentence to bring a new opener to the front.
Don’t forget to re-read the sentence to make sure it still makes sense and that it actually sounds better.