Updated on April 23, 2022
Contrary to the recent rise in dangerous, selfish, and ignorant anti-vaccination rhetoric, there’s been a long history of vaccination and disease safety public service announcements (PSAs), many involving popular cartoon characters. In the early 1950s, Fawcett’s (now DC’s) Captain Marvel advocated children to stay safe during “polio season” (several years before the first successful polio vaccine became widespread). Charles Schulz’s “Peanuts” also ran some strips advocating vaccination; a 1962 strip has Lucy get a polio vaccination, while a 1967 storyline has Linus get a measles shot.
The COVID-19 pandemic, of course, has seen a rise in PSAs providing basic safety advice. With the widespread availability of COVID-19 vaccines in 2021, there’s also been PSAs advocating vaccinations. Below are some examples of popular cartoon characters advocating in PSAs for COVID-19 vaccinations.
In November 2021, DC Comics released a vaccination PSA poster for children’s hospitals. The poster advocates vaccinations in general (not just for COVID-19), and features some of DC’s top superheroes:
- Top row: Wonder Woman, Superman, Batman
- Middle row: Raven, Supergirl, the Jon Kent Superboy/Superman
- Bottom row: Aqualad/Aquaman (Jackson Hyde), Robin (presumably Damian Wayne), Wonder Girl (Yara Flor), Blue Beetle (Jaime Reyes), and Static
My first reaction was wondering how Batman’s floating in mid-air like his pals (unless he’s just leaping down from somewhere). Otherwise, the poster is interesting for its choice of characters outside the “Big Three” and Robin. The general public would recognize Supergirl, Raven (albeit not her comic version), and Static (“Static Shock”). Not so much Yara; Jackson and Jaime are likely only recognizable to “Young Justice” fans.
Whether or not Jon Kent is recognizable is debatable, the recent brouhaha by conservatives over his sexuality aside. Outside of the aforementioned “Young Justice” fans, Superboy to the general public is likely either: “never heard of him”; the classic “Superman as a boy” version (especially if one’s older); or a “Smallville” reference. A few might guess “Superman’s son?”
That said, the characters used show the more diverse side of the DCU. Several are people of color and/or LGBTQ, and four are women.
In September 2021, “Family Guy” produced a brief PSA using Brian and Stewie. The short educated viewers on how COVID-19 vaccines work.
Marvel produced a very short comic featuring a New York City neighborhood getting vaccinated, with the citizens discussing why it’s important. Meanwhile, the Avengers fight off an attack by MODOK and his AIM minions.
I wonder if the comic could’ve worked without the superhero aspects, as Earth’s Mightiest Heroes aren’t shown interacting with the vaccination effort at all, save on the last page. Then again, the message might not have gotten the same amount of attention.
The Avengers roster here, if wondering: Captain America, Captain Marvel, the Hulk, Black Panther, Black Widow, and Iron Man. All characters the general public recognizes, thanks to their billion-dollar MCU movies.
Teen Titans Go
Cartoon Network’s “Teen Titans Go” produced a 30 second long PSA featuring Raven and Cyborg, who encourage students in New York City to get tested for COVID-19. While not a vaccination PSA, encouraging testing is important, as well. Granted, as of this writing, testing is tough to get in some locations. (New York’s city government website has a page on how to get COVID-19 testing.)
COVID-19 vaccination and testing information
For those wondering (and read this far), here’s a few resources on how to get COVID-19 vaccinations and testing:
- CDC on vaccinations: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/index.html
- Vaccines.gov: https://www.vaccines.gov/
- CDC on COVID-19 testing: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/testing.html
- HHS.gov on COVID-19 testing, including resources for each state: https://www.hhs.gov/coronavirus/community-based-testing-sites/index.html