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CNN Live Event/Special

"The ABCs of COVID Vaccines: A CNN/Sesame Street Town Hall for Families". Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired November 06, 2021 - 08:30   ET



ELMO, 3.5 YEARS OLD, SESAME STREET: Is it time for the town hall already?




GUPTA: Hi, everyone.

BIG BIRD: Hello there.

GUPTA: So good to see all of you.

HILL: It really is. But, Elmo, why are you dressed, is it like a clown?

ELMO: Oh, yes. It's kind of embarrassing. Elmo was having a virtual play date with Abby. Yes, we were being clowns. It's a lot of fun but, you know, it's kind of hard to move around in these big shoes.

GUPTA: I can see that, Elmo. But I have to say, it's wonderful to actually see all of you. It also sounds and looks like you and your families have been staying healthy.

ROSITA: Oh, I have a way. I've been staying healthy, Dr. Sanjay. Look.

ELMO: Does Rosita have a booboo?

ROSITA: Oh, no. This is for my COVID vaccine. My mommy and my papi took me to get it this morning.

HILL: Rosita, that's great. Getting the COVID vaccine is a great way to stay healthy.

ROSITA: See my mommy and my papi said that it will help keep me, my friends, my neighbors, my abuela all healthy.

GUPTA: Your parents are absolutely right. You know, COVID vaccines are now available for children 5 years and older. And the more people who get them, the better we're going to be able to help stop the spread of COVID and keep everyone healthy. ROSITA: See, and then three weeks later, I have to go back to the doctors and get my second shot. And, Kitty, oh, let me show you, this is Gatito, will be coming with me to take that shot too.

GUPTA: Good for you, Rosita and Gatito. You know, you're going to be considered fully vaccinated two weeks after your second dose. So that means that kids that are getting their first dose today, they should have good protection by mid-December.

BIG BIRD, 6 YEARS OLD, SESAME STREET: You know, my Granny Bird says that since I'm 6 years old I could get the vaccine.

HILL: Oh, yes, that's right, Big Bird.

BIG BIRD: But, well, I have a lot of questions. Like, what is a vaccine? And does it have to be a shot? And will I still need to wear my mask?

HILL: Those are such great questions, Big Bird, and it turns out lots of kids and families have questions too.

GUPTA: So, over the next half hour, we're going to be answering your questions. Talking with experts and giving you the information you need about vaccinations for kids.

ELMO: Oh, you know what, Elmo better go change. See you later.


ROSITA: Come on. It's time for the town hall. Yay!


HILL: Welcome to THE ABCS OF COVID VACCINES, a CNN/Sesame Street special town hall about COVID vaccines for children. They're now available for kids ages 5 and up.

Joining me, as always, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and Sesame Street's Big Bird.

GUPTA: Hey, Erica.

Hey, Big Bird.

HILL: Hi, everyone.

BIG BIRD: Hello there.

HILL: Oh, and...

GRANNY BIRD: Hi everybody.

HILL: Oh, hi, Granny Bird.

GRANNY BIRD, SESAME STREET: Oh, my goodness. Is that Dr. Sanjay and Erica? Oh, it's so great to see you. Oh, now go ahead and ask your question, grandson. BIG BIRD: OK, Granny Bird. All right, my question is, my Granny Bird said that I might get the vaccine and, well, what is a vaccine?

GUPTA: Well, that is a good place to start, right? Think about it like this, Big Bird. Your body has a lot of these teeny tiny helpers that are there to protect you. What the vaccine does is train those helpers to fight the virus. That way if you ever get COVID germs, your body knows just what to do to beat it and that can help you from getting sick. You know, you have been getting all kinds of vaccines since you were a little bird probably.

HILL: Yes, let's turn to another expert to learn some more about vaccines.

SUPER GROVER, SESAME STREET: Turn, turn, turn, turn. Yes, I'm an expert and I am turning.

GUPTA: Super Grover.

SUPER GROVER: Yes, Dr. Sanjay, it is I, Super Grover. Once again here to save the day.

HILL: Oh, perfect timing. So, you're going to tell us about vaccines, Super Grover?

SUPER GROVER: Yes. Vacuums.


Oh, I would love to talk about vacuums. Sucking up all of those little crumbs with that hose-y thing-y and, yes.

GUPTA: Super Grover, no, not vacuums, vaccines. The COVID vaccine.

SUPER GROVER: Oh, well, are you sure you do not want to talk about vacuums?


SUPER GROVER: Alas, a wealth of vacuum knowledge wasted. Have no fear, though. I can still help by finding you a vaccine expert.

Hello? Hello? Any vaccine experts around?

GUPTA: Don't worry, Super Grover. We do have a real vaccine expert here. Please help us welcome Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett. She actually helped develop a COVID vaccine.

Hey, Dr. Corbett.


GUPTA: Good to see you.

HILL: We are so excited to have you here. CORBETT: It is so nice to see you guys, too.

HILL: We have so many questions, Dr. Corbett, as I'm sure you can imagine. Let's start off with our first one, this comes to us from Lucy in California.

LUCY, 9 YEARS OLD, SAN RAFAEL, CALIFORNIA: How do the scientists make the vaccine?

HILL: And here we have a scientist who helped make one of the vaccines.

How did you do it?

COBETT: Wow, that was a really good question, Lucy. Oh, with so much work. But you know, scientists found out over tons of years of research that if you put two components together, you could make a really good vaccine.

So, the first component is just a message. It is a message that goes to your body to tell your body how to make a really good response in order for you to fight COVID.

And the second component is a ball of fat. So, you get a message wrapped in a ball of fat and that ball of fat just allows for that vaccine to go into your arm, very safely, to go to the cells that it is supposed to go to, so that we could prevent you from getting COVID.

GUPTA: Dr. Corbett, we've got another question, this one coming from Zoe in Tennessee.

ZOE, 7 YEARS OLD, THOMPSON'S STATION, TENNESSEE: Can I get the vaccine similar to the flu shot, as a mist in my nose?

GUPTA: A pretty common question, Dr. Corbett. Does it have to be a shot?

CORBETT: Right now, the vaccine has to be a shot. But don't fret. There are a lot of scientists all over who are working on making a vaccine that you can get like the mist in your nose. But today the vaccine that you will get so that you can be protected by Christmas time will be a shot into your arm.

HILL: And the good news is, it's quick, right? Those shots just barely a pinch.

CORBETT: It is so quick.

HILL: You know, a lot of kids I know also want to know why it has to be in two shots.

Sanjay, you have a little demonstration for us.

GUPTA: Yes. So, you know, they call this the prime and the boost. So, figure it like this. This umbrella, the first shot is sort of your prime, you get some protection against getting wet. And then the boost, which gives you stronger, longer, and wider protection. So that is the one shot versus two shots. Hopefully the shot then, the protection lasts a long time.

HILL: Which is always good stuff. We also have our friend Ernie from Sesame Street who is joining us.

Hey, Ernie.

ERNIE, SESAME STREET: What's that, Rubber Ducky? Oh, someone has a question?

ALFREDO SANTOS, PHOENIX: How do we make sure the right dose is administered to our kids?

CORBETT: That is such a great question. You know, the right dose is determined based on just the color of the vial. The color of the container that the vaccine is in so that the doctor or the pharmacist or the nurse that gives you your vaccine can be sure that you're getting the right vaccine for your age group.

GUPTA: And they test obviously different doses to make sure that the right dose makes sense for kids versus adults. We have got another question, Dr. Corbett, this one from Asher in New York.

ASHER, 5.5 YEARS OLD, LLOYD HARBOR, NEW YORK: My question is, how does the vaccine fight the germ?

GUPTA: Love these questions.

CORBETT: This is a good question. You know, actually it is you and your body that is going to fight the germs away. The vaccine just teaches your body or those little helpers, like Sanjay said, to learn how to fight those germs away. So, the vaccine goes in and it basically gives your body a class so that your body can learn how to see the COVID-19 germs.

HILL: I love that explanation. I'm learning so much here this morning. We also have a question from 5-year-old Kinleigh.

KINLEIGH, 5 YEARS OLD, HEMPSTEAD, TEXAS: If the vaccine will soon be here for the villain coronavirus?


CORBETT: Is the vaccine a superhero? OK. You know what? I like to think about it like you being the superhero. The vaccine is just your training camp for you to become the superhero so that you can fight away the virus.

HILL: That is a great way to look at it. Dr. Corbett, I would you like to think of you as one of our superheroes too, you and the other scientists who worked so hard to make these vaccines possible. You are really superheroes.

CORBETT: Thank you so much for having me. And you know what, I am so proud to be called a superhero but I'm even more proud of all of the kids that are going to go get their vaccines so they can become superheroes too.

GRANNY BIRD: Oh, Dr. Sanjay, I have some questions, too.

GUPTA: Sure, Granny Bird. I mean, I know there are lots of parents and guardians with questions around their kids receiving the vaccines. So, you know what, here to help us answer them is the surgeon general of the United States, Vivek Murthy.

Doctor, thanks for joining us.

DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: Of course. Hi, Granny Bird, how are you?

GRANNY BIRD: Hi. Oh, my stars. Hello, Surgeon General. Oh, my goodness. I was wondering, could you tell me is the COVID vaccine safe for my little -- well, my Big Bird? I mean, how do we know it's safe?

MURTHY: Well, Granny Bird, that's a really good question. And you know what, I'm a parent also and I have got a kid that's close to Big Bird's age. So, I've been thinking about this too.

Here is what I would tell you. There are two big questions that we always ask before we let children have a vaccine. One is, does the vaccine work? And the second is, is it safe? And the good news is that thousands of people have been thinking about this, hundreds of scientists have been looking at the data and they have found that this vaccine works to protect our kids against COVID. But it's also very safe.

The only side effects that they're really seeing have popped up are soreness, you know, in the arm where you get the shot, and some people have had headaches and felt a little tired afterwards. Those are the most common side effects. But you know what, they only last for a day or two. And what you're left with is protection against the virus. That's what we want for our kids.

GRANNY BIRD: Oh, my goodness. Well, thank you for that. But you know, I've been hearing all this time and I thought that COVID-19 didn't make kids that sick.

MURTHY: You're right that our kids, thankfully, do a lot better than older adults when it comes to COVID. But we've also seen over the last couple of years that COVID has taken a big toll on our children. And so, we want to do everything we can to protect our children from this virus even though they are at lower risk than adults, they're still at risk. And this vaccine gives us a chance to make sure that they're safe and protected. That's why I'm going to be taking my child to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

GRANNY BIRD: Well, that makes me feel better and that's very helpful to know that you are feeling the same way and protecting your little ones.

GUPTA: Yes, and I should add as well, you know, kids can also play a role in passing the virus on to others like siblings and parents and grandparents as well. So, you know, getting kids vaccinated, especially as we go into the colder months here, it's going to be really crucial to protect them as well as the other people in their lives, Granny Bird.

GRANNY BIRD: Well, thank you, Dr. Sanjay. And thank you, Surgeon General Murthy for taking the time to talk to me today. You have really helped this Granny Bird make a decision.

MURTHY: Oh, well, it's so good to hear that, Granny Bird. You take care and give my best wishes to Big Bird, too.

GRANNY BIRD: I will. Thank you so much.

HILL: It's so great when we can ask our questions. And we really love to help some other parents and guardians, just like Granny Bird, with their questions. So, our first question comes from Maddox and Mason in Texas.

MADDOX AND MASON, 8 YEARS OLD, DESOTO, TEXAS: Was the vaccine trials for kids long enough to determine the long-term side effects?

HILL: So many parents concerned about long-term side effects when the vaccine seems very new. What do we know?

MURTHY: Well, here is the good news. We know that in these trials that were done to study the vaccine, which was specifically designed for kids with a specific dosage just for children, that what they saw was overall a very strong safety profile, but they did not see any serious side effects and they followed the children for two months. And why is that important? Because the vast, vast majority of side effects that we see from vaccines happen in the first few weeks.

Now on the other hand, what we do know about the virus is that if our kids are not protected and they get COVID-19, that there is a significant risk of them getting seriously ill. We've seen over the last 20 months that millions of children have gotten infected.


Thousands have also developed something called a multi system inflammatory condition which involves multiple organs systems being affected including the heart. So, we want to protect our kids from all of these side effects of COVID, if you will, and one of the most effective ways we can do that is to get our children vaccinated.

HILL: We also have our friend, Abby Cadabby, who is here. Abby.

ABBY CADABBY, 4 YEARS OLD, SESAME STREET: The letter of the day is "Q". "Q" is for question. And here's another question.

MYRA, 7 YEARS OLD, CHICAGO: If enough people in our school are vaccinated can we stop wearing masks?

GUPTA: When can the masks come off?

(CROSSTALK) MURTHY: My answer (ph) - well that's a really good question I know all of us want to know the answer to that I certainly do as well from my kids. Look, what I'd say is the CDC is currently still recommending that people wear masks whether they're vaccinated or not when they're in public indoor settings. And that would include a place like a school.

But what they are looking at is they're going to see what happens with cases. They want to make sure the cases come down and they stay down. And the more people who get vaccinated the more likelihood we have of getting cases to come down and stay down. And if that happens then the CDC may evaluate.

GUPTA: Surgeon General Murthy, thanks so much for helping us with our kids and good luck with your kids as well.

MURTHY: Always go to see you.

HILL: Now it looks like we have a question for Elmo.

ELMO: For, Elmo?

HILL: Yes, Elmo, this one comes from 6-year-old Avery in Alaska.

ELMO: Hi, Avery, what's your question.

AVERY, 6 YEARS OLD, MEKORYUK, ALASKA: Will Elmo get the COVID-19 vaccine?

ELMO: Good question, Avery. But Elmo doesn't know. Can Elmo get the vaccine?

GUPTA: I think I can help with that, Elmo. So right now, the vaccine is only for children five and older. So three-and-a-half-year-old monster, kids like you are probably going to have to wait a little bit longer until the New Year.

But scientists are working hard right now to make sure that you can get the vaccine as soon as possible.

ELMO: Does that mean that Elmo can't play with Rosita or Big Bird?

HILL: Oh, no, of course not, Elmo. You can still play with your friends. But everyone needs to keep doing their part to stay healthy. So, keep wearing your mask around a lots of people and also make sure you keep washing your hands regularly.

ELMO: Oh, OK, Elmo will wear his mask and wash his hands before he eats, after he plays outside and after he goes to the potty.

GUPTA: That's great, Elmo.

HILL: We have a lot more to talk about including what to do if you feel a little scared about getting the COVID vaccine.

GUPTA: Yes, yes and Rosita's going to be back to tell us how your favorite stuffed animal might be able to help. We'll also answer more of your questions. We'll be right back.



ERNIE: Hey, Bert?


ERNIE: Knock, knock.

BERT: Who's there?


BERT: Wa who?

ERNIE: Well, someone's excited to be back at the town hall.


BERT: Hey, that's pretty good, Ernie. Take it away, Erica. Wahoo.

HILL: Thanks, Bert and Ernie. You're watching the ABC's of COVID Vaccines, a CNN and Sesame Street Special.

GUPTA: Hey, Granny Bird, question. Have you decided if Big Bird's going to be getting the vaccine?

GRANNY BIRD: Yes, I did. I asked my questions, and I got my answers and I've scheduled an appointment for my grandson. And we're leaving in a few minutes. Now I just need to get one last thing before we go to your appointment, Big Bird.


GRANNY BIRD: I'll be right back.

BIG BIRD: All right. I have one more question.

HILL: Sure, Big Bird, what's that.

BIG BIRD: I'm a little scared to get the shot because I don't like needles. Will it hurt.

HILL: It's OK to be scared and to have some of those big feelings, Big Bird. Can I tell you something? I'm a grown up and I don't really like needles either. In fact, even as an adult I don't like to look when the doctor puts that shot in my arm.

GUPTA: And I'm the same way, too, Big Bird.

BIG BIRD: But you're a doctor.

GUPTA: Yes, but, you know, even some doctors don't like getting shots. Luckily there are ways that we can manage some of those big feelings. HILL: You know one thing that I find is maybe singing a song to distract yourself. Maybe the ABC's while you're getting your shot.

GUPTA: You know what I like to do, I like to bring something from home that might make me feel safe like a favorite toy maybe. I also take three big breaths and then think about all the fun things I can do after I get the vaccine.

HILL: You know who else we could ask, Big Bird. We could ask, Rosita. Remember she just go her shot. We could ask what she did.

BIG BIRD: OK. Hi, Rosita. Did it hurt when you go the vaccine shot? Were you scared?

ROSITA: I was a little scared, Big Bird. But my mommy and my poppy helped me and little Gatito helped my too.

HILL: Oh, Gatito, Rosita, is that your lovey?

ROSITA: Si, si. When I was getting ready for my vaccine I sat in the chair and I held Gatito over my belly like this and I watched Gatito moving in and out on my belly. And you know what before I knew it the shot was over and I had this cool vaccine, you know, band-aid on my arm.

BIG BIRD: Really, that was it?

ROSITA: Yep, yes, I barely felt it, yes. And you know my arm only hurts a little.

BIG BIRD: Well, gee, thanks, Rosita. That makes me feel a lot better.

GRANNY BIRD: And look what I have here. It's what we needed for your vaccine shot.

BIG BIRD: Radar.

GRANNY BIRD: Yes, it's time to go, Big Bird.

GUPTA: Good luck, Big Bird. We're rooting for you.

HILL: You're going to do great, Big Bird. We'll see you when you get back.

ROSITA: You got this, Big Bird.

BIG BIRD: OK, Granny Bird.

GRANNY BIRD: Let's go, hon.

HILL: Joining us now to talk about coping with those feelings and our fears are our friends Dr. Rosemarie Truglio, Senior Vice President of Curriculum and Content at Sesame Workshop, which is the non-profit behind Sesame Street and Dr. Edith Bracho Sanchez, a primary care pediatrician at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. It's so good to have you both with us this morning. So, look, we know Big Bird isn't alone. We got so many questions from kids who were worried about getting a shot. Take a look.


ZOIE, 9 YEARS OLD, DUMFRIES, VIRGINIA: Will the shot hurt?

DARCY, 5 YEARS OLD, DARIEN, CONNECTICUT: Will it hurt because some shots hurt?

LIAM, 6 YEARS OLD, CINCINNATI, OHIO: Is it going to hurt or bleed?



HILL: Will it hurt? So, Dr. Rosemarie, I know you have some great tips for kids who are nervous that it might hurt.



To get your mind off of your arm, right, and don't look at it. Maybe you could then focus on whoever's holding your hand and focus on how that their touch and how they're comforting you.

Take those deep belly breaths and focus your attention maybe on your feet, maybe wiggling your toes. The whole point is we want to get your attention off of the shot and off of your arm. And before you know it it's all over and it's only going to hurt just a little bit.

GUPTA: Dr. Edith, what is your advice to grownups about talking to their kids about getting the vaccine?

DR EDITH BRACHO-SANCHEZ, PRIMARY CARE PEDIATRICIAN, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY IRVING MEDICAL CENTER: So, the first thing, Sanjay, that I would say is to actually go ahead and talk to their kids about the vaccine. I can't tell you how many parents bring their kids to my office without having told them that they're getting a shot.

And then it sort of, you know, shocks them and it's a surprise and it scares them even more. So, let's go ahead and make space for those big feelings and talk about this and be honest. It might feel like a little pinch and then a little burn. Take those breaths, count to five and it will be over. But make space for those feelings and for those conversations.

GUPTA: Guess what, Super Grover is back. Take is away, Super Grover.

SUPER GROVER: It's a bird, it's a meatball sandwich, no, it is someone with a question.

CHLOE, 5 YEARS OLD, JERSEY CITY, NEW JERSEY: When I get my shot, do I have to miss school? GUPTA: You know, Dr. Edith, I think a lot of parents are worried about side effects overall. What should parents consider when they - when they schedule vaccine?

BRACHO-SANCHEZ: I think the first thing I would say is that we have to remember that the dose that we're giving children is smaller than the dose that we're giving adults and that is because we wanted to minimize those side effects. So, it's very possible that when you take your kids to get this vaccine, they're not going to have any side effects or if they do they're going to be very, very mild.

Now you always have the option of giving them an anti-fever medication, anti-pain medication. And with that they actually should feel a lot better, they should perk right up and be able to go to school. So no, the answer's no. They don't have to miss school. And those side effects are going to be mild if at all.

HILL: Which is great news. Rosemarie, we got some really interesting questions including this one from Oliver in California.

OLIVER, 9 YEARS OLD, ORANGE, CALIFORNIA: I'm worried about some of my friends who plan to not be vaccinated. What should I do? What should I say?

TRUGLIO: You're a very kind friend to be caring about your friend's health. And all families are making different decisions. And you're doing your part by being vaccinated. You're protecting yourself and you're protecting your friend and others around you.

The most important thing is to continue to be a good friend and have those play dates. But be mindful that your friend isn't vaccinated. So, wear a mask, make sure your hands are washed and keep a little bit of a safe distance.

HILL: Dr. Edith Branch Sanchez, Dr. Rosemarie Truglio, thank you, both, so much. It's so great to see both of you this morning. And thanks for all of your expertise.

TRUGLIO: Thank you.

BRACHO-SANCHEZ: Thank you, guys.

GUPTA: Hey, Big Bird, how did it go?

HILL: Yes, how are you feeling?

BIG BIRD: Well, I feel OK. My wing hurts a little bit but that's OK. You know I was scared but it did go by really quickly. And Radar and my belly breathing really helped. And look I got this sticker from the doctor and I put it on Radar's tummy, right there.

GRANNY BIRD: Oh, you both did great. And by getting the vaccine you'll be helping to keep yourself, our friends and neighbors and me safe and healthy. Now your wing may hurt for a day or two, Big Bird, and you might feel a bit tired but, I'm so proud of you my grandson.

BIG BIRD: And I'm proud of your, Radar, you did great.

HILL: You know, it looks like some other friends just got their first dose of the vaccine too.


HILL: Our ABC's of COVID Vaccine's Town Hall is coming to a close. Thank you so much for sending in all of your questions and also thank you to our experts and friends from Sesame Street for joining us today.

GUPTA: I really - I really hope that we answered your questions today. But if you do have more questions about your children receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, reach out to your own healthcare provider.

ELMO: Hello (ph), everybody. Elmo found his new favorite dress-up costume, Dr. Sanjay.

HILL: Whoa, I think I'm seeing double.

GUPTA: Elmo. I'm so flattered. I've got to say I really love the outfit.

ELMO: Thank you, Doctor. Elmo's playing pretend Dr. Sanjay with his baby (inaudible).

GUPTA: That's fantastic, Elmo.

HILL: From all of us at CNN.

BIG BIRD: And Sesame Street.

GUPTA: Bye-bye.

BIG BIRD: Bye-bye.

ELMO: Bye-bye. Elmo loves you. OK, baby (inaudible).