OPINION: Sen. Ted Cruz fails Texans again on childhood vaccines, and Big Bird too

"Sesame Street" character Big Bird said he had gotten his COVID-19 vaccination shot, prompting backlash from some conservatives. (HBO/TNS)
"Sesame Street" character Big Bird said he had gotten his COVID-19 vaccination shot, prompting backlash from some conservatives. (HBO/TNS)Handout, HO / TNS

We’d like to think that U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz would have behaved differently recently if he had only seen the study by the state health department which reports that unvaccinated Texans were 20 times more likely to die of COVID-19 than those who were fully immunized.

Unfortunately, knowing Cruz’s history of pandering to the anti-science crowd that is resistant to masks and vaccines to fight a deadly pandemic, it probably wouldn’t have had much effect.

Cruz still probably would have introduced a bill in the U.S. Senate that would prohibit the federal government or any entity at the federal, state or local level that receives federal funding, such as school districts, from requiring COVID-19 vaccines for minors.

And Cruz probably still would have criticized Sesame Street’s beloved character Big Bird for supporting these vaccines for children and tweeting that it had received this protection. “My wing is feeling a little sore,” Big Bird tweeted, “but it’ll give my body an extra protective boost that keeps me and others healthy.”

Pretty harmless, right? A public-health message from a cartoon character that has been supported childhood vaccines since 1972, at that time for protection from measles. Not in Cruz’s hyper-political mind. In his view, Big Bird was promoting “Government propaganda … for your 5 year old!”

That’s pathetic, and it’s the kind of misinformation that will discourage more adults from getting vaccinated or having their children receive this protection as well. Vaccines are now available for children age 5 to 11, joining older children and adults who have already been eligible for this safeguard.

Even though the pandemic seems to be finally receding, it is still a killer. Just this week, Southeast Texans learned of the death from Covid of Father Duc Duong, who served in various Catholic churches in the area for 21 years. Fr. Duong had not been vaccinated, and the exact reasons aren’t known. But if he had been, Fr. Duong might still be with us.

The recent report by the state health department noted that Texans who were not fully vaccinated made up 92 percent of coronavirus cases and 86 percent of fatalities in September. An average of 1,217 people have died from COVID-19 each day in the nation over the past week. Although children are not as likely as adults to get seriously ill if they contract COVID, thousands have been hospitalized and 146 children under 11 have died of the disease, according to the FDA. Infected children can also spread the disease to unvaccinated adults, who are more likely to get sick or die from Covid.

Numbers like that are hard to ignore. If a cartoon character can get the message and promote life-saving vaccines, a U.S. senator should too.

If you haven’t been vaccinated yet, please do so. If you have children, please seriously consider getting them vaccinated too. You won’t regret taking this step, but you might if you don’t.