Leave it to Elmo to set things straight for the rest of us. Over the last few years, vaccines has become a deeply polarizing, hot-button topic for families and a partisan issue for politicians that's as contentious as climate change. But now everyone can just settle down, because Sesame Street's Elmo has ended the debate. The red-furred Muppet teamed up with the U.S. surgeon general and, together, Elmo and Dr. Vivek Murthy made a PSA on vaccines. Their message? Get vaccinated! If there's one person (or Muppet) that the American people can trust, it's Elmo — and the surgeon general's pretty reliable too.
Murthy, who was nominated by President Obama in November 2013 and confirmed as the U.S. surgeon general last December, has launched his first major public health initiative focusing on the importance of getting vaccinated. In a blog post on the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services website, Murthy wrote about Elmo's visit to his office and their discussion on how to make sure everyone's healthy. Murthy wrote:
Elmo and I talked about the importance of vaccines and making sure that all children are protected from easily preventable diseases. Elmo wanted to know how he could help. So, I told Elmo that the best things he could do are to get all his vaccinations on time and to get his friends at Sesame Street to do the same.
Then, Elmo, being the magnanimous and socially responsible Muppet that he is, volunteered to tape two PSAs with Murthy on the importance of vaccines.
In the first video, which was produced by the Daily Dot, Dr. Murthy bumps into Elmo in the waiting room before his checkup. Elmo says he wants to be "strong and healthy," but he's a little nervous about getting a shot. Then he asks Murthy why he has to get vaccinated anyway?
Murthy: Do you carry an umbrella when it rains?Elmo: Why of course. Elmo wants to stay dry.Murthy: Do you wear a helmet when you ride a tricycle?Elmo: Of course. Elmo wants to stay safe.Murthy: Do you pretend a piece of broccoli is a tree and you're the world's largest lumberjack?
That last question trips Elmo up, but it becomes clear that it's a passion that only Murthy indulges in (it's an endearing way to show the surgeon general's humorous side).
But the point of Murthy's questions is that, just like umbrellas protect you from the rain and helmets from head injuries, vaccines protect you from germs, which can make you sick — and Elmo does not like being sick. Murthy tells him that vaccines help your body create antibodies to fight these germs, and then explains what antibodies are. Elmo lights up at the description.
So anitbodies are the best superheroes ever!
When it comes time for Elmo's vaccination shot, he expresses the same concern that many kids have: "Will it hurt?" In order to help distract him from the pinch, Murthy tells Elmo to turn around and sing a song. Elmo starts singing Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off" and doesn't even notice when the nurse administers the shot.
When it's all over, he says:
That was so easy! Why doesn't everybody get a vaccination?
That is the ultimate question, and it's what the video ends on.
The second PSA is shorter and more straightforward, with Elmo and Dr. Murthy telling the public to get vaccinated in order to stay healthy.
Regardless of who's on each side of the vaccine debate and what their message is, one thing is clear: not getting vaccinated can lead to deadly outbreaks, like the recent measles epidemic in California that stemmed from anti-vaccine movements in the state. And any concerns that vaccines can cause autism have been widely dispelled by scientists and doctors.
But if it takes someone with gravitas, like Elmo, to get the point across, then so be it.
Watch the PSAs below.