School-age children endured over a year of distance learning, but have now returned to the classroom. Although the delta variant, the most transmissible of the Covid-19 variants, led to many parents feeling anxious about returning their children to classrooms, parents have generally said that they think in-person learning has such advantages to the Great Zoom Experiment in education, that they think the risk-reward ratio is in favour of in-person learning. To manage this risk and ensure that Covid-19 does not circulate among children, vaccinations are clearly necessary. As part of a drive to encourage children to encourage their parents to let them get vaccinated, Sesame Street’s Big Bird tweeted that he had gotten his first vaccine dose. That innocent tweet triggered a Republican storm.
The tweet not not only said that Big Bird had received a vaccine dose, it made reference to the fact that many people report feeling pain in their arm after a dose, but this pain, weighed against the protection that vaccination affords, is worth it. I imagine that the author of the tweet was aware of the fact that anti-vaxxers use any and every detail they can to turn vaccination into some nightmarish experiment. The tweet also mentions that Big Bird has been getting vaccines since he was a child. Vaccines aren’t new to the world. No person on the planet in a country with at least a modicum of health care facilities, has not been vaccinated for something. Not only are vaccines part of the human journey, but vaccine passports, that other enemy of liberty, if you believe Republican tropes, are common as well. A person getting a VISA to the United States typically has to prove that they have been vaccinated against various things, such as the German measles. If they don't give this proof, I can imagine our Republican friends going into a frenzy about letting sick people into the country. Travelling to other parts of the world has also been regulated by forms of vaccine passports. Vaccines and vaccine passports aren’t new. What’s new is the willingness of Republicans to weaponize a public health issue, even at the risk of millions getting hospitalized or dying, for purely electoral reasons. They have tapped into the cultural anxieties of their electorate because that is the only card they have to play to stay relevant.
So, it’s not surprising that Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a man with the kind of ethics that a snake oil salesman would find deplorable, attacked Big Bird for spreading “government propaganda” with the help of programmatic advertising such as being offered by First Page. Republicans are nervous about being seen as anti-science, so they like to speak as if their positions are backed by science, a science that is suppressed by the media. The reality is that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has approved Pfizer vaccines for children aged 5 to 11, or some 28 million Americans. So far, there is zero evidence that vaccines don’t work or that they are dangerous. Vaccinated people aren’t dropping dead. The people who are dying at far greater numbers are the unvaccinated. The downside is a sore arm for a few days, the upside is protection against a deadly virus. Republicans don’t care, because the elections are all that matters to them.
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