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By Rachel Fadem, CNN
Elmo, everyone’s favorite red Muppet, has received the Covid-19 vaccine.
In a public service announcement released on Tuesday by Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street, Elmo’s dad Louie — also a Muppet — shared his questions about the Covid-19 vaccine for children under 5. Elmo is 3 and a half years old.
“Was it safe? Was it the right decision?’ I talked to our pediatrician so I could make the right choice,” Louie said in the PSA. “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.”
Covid-19 vaccines are now available for children under 5, and parents may have some questions, said Jeanette Betancourt, senior vice president of US social impact at Sesame Workshop.
“We hope that Louie and Elmo will inspire parents and caregivers across the country to speak with their healthcare providers and seek out information to learn about how the COVID-19 vaccines can keep young children and their families healthy,” Betancourt said via email.
The US Food and Drug Administration gave emergency use authorization for the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccines to include children as young as 6 months earlier in June. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky signed off on Covid-19 vaccinations for children under 5 on June 17, after the CDC’s vaccine advisers voted unanimously that same day to recommend the use of Covid-19 vaccinations for children under 5.
Although these vaccines are now available, some parents are reluctant to vaccinate their children right away. Only 18% of parents of children under 5 said they would vaccinate their child for Covid-19 as soon as a vaccine was available, according to an April Kaiser Family Foundation Vaccine Monitor survey. And 38% of parents surveyed said they would “wait and see” before vaccinating their young children.
“Nearly 5.7 million child cases of COVID-19 have been reported nationally in 2022 alone, making vaccination an important step to protecting both kids and their families against the highly contagious virus and its variants,” a press release from the Ad Council and Sesame Workshop said.
As of June 22, nearly 30% of children ages 5 to 11 and nearly 60% of children ages 12 to 17 were fully vaccinated for Covid-19, according to the CDC.
CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen’s two children — who are 2 and 4 years old — received the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine on Monday, June 27. While Wen was eager to get her children vaccinated, she knows a lot of parents are on the fence.
“We need to respect that people have questions, and this video acknowledges that parents want to do the right thing for our kids and encourages them to seek information from a trusted source — their pediatrician,” Wen said via email.
The PSA both serves as a “beautiful” example of modeling healthy behavior and a way to help people realize that it is OK to have questions about the vaccine, said Dr. Neha Chaudhary, child psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School and chief medical officer of BeMe Health.
“I imagine there will be kids and parents who watch this and feel like they too can ask those questions, work through them, and go ahead and get the COVID-19 vaccine if their doctor gives them the okay,” Chaudhary said via email.
Children form powerful bonds with their favorite media characters, so it can be helpful for children to learn by watching a ‘friend’ go through something new and potentially scary, said Dr. Jenny Radesky, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.
“It’s natural for getting a vaccine to stress out both children and their parents,” Radesky said via email. “I appreciate it when media creators cleverly place pearls of knowledge into their stories that help families cope.”
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