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Musician Hopes Song 'Cootie Shot' Will Help Overcome Vaccine Hesitancy


This week, the FDA approved the emergency use of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for kids age 12 to 15. NPR's Mandalit del Barco brought us this story about a children's musician who wants to help kids get over any fears they may have.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: Pierce Freelon says he understands that some kids and adults are anxious or mistrustful. In fact, he's had a lifelong phobia of being poked and prodded.


PIERCE FREELON: (Singing) I'm scared of needles. Ouch.

DEL BARCO: But he sings about how much worse it would be to catch coronavirus. Freelon's new song advocates getting inoculated against what some children refer to as cooties.

FREELON: It's like germs, you know? Oh, you got the cooties. Don't touch me. It's a valuable lesson, you know, in how things are transmitted from one person to the other.

DEL BARCO: The song "Cootie Shot" on his new album, "Black To The Future," includes Freelon's 11-year-old daughter, Stella, and 12-year-old son, Justice. In the hook, they sing a catchy rhyme from a traditional children's game.


STELLA AND JUSTICE: (Singing) Circle, circle, dot, dot, now I got my cootie shot. Circle, circle, dot, dot, now I got my cootie shot.

DEL BARCO: In folklore, circle, circle, dot, dot is what children say as they make a motion with their index fingers.

FREELON: You do a little circle on the arm and you poke the person and then you got your cootie shot. Now, I'm, like, impervious to the cooties. That's exactly the type of vibe I want to give kids. I want them to feel like there's a protective shield around them. That's what the vaccine does. It protects us from COVID.


FREELON: (Singing) Call your parents, your niblings and your next of kin. Call your grandmama and your best friend, ask them, did you shoot your shot? Did you roll up your sleeves?

DEL BARCO: Freelon, a Black millennial father and musician, is also a city council member in Durham, N.C., where only 30% of Black residents and 29% of Latinx residents have been vaccinated so far.

FREELON: This is not just, like, health disparity issue. You know, it's a racial justice issue. We need to make sure that we have vaccine equity.

DEL BARCO: Freelon says that can start with kids.

FREELON: They're influencers to their parents and totally want to get adults that are vaccine hesitant to have a conversation. Mom, have you had your cootie shot? Dad?


DIVINITY ROXX: (Singing) I want to play with my friends, so put that shot in my arm.

DEL BARCO: That last voice in the song is Divinity Roxx, Beyonce's music director and bassist. She's releasing her own single this week. It's about getting kids prepared for greatness. Mandalit del Barco, NPR News.


STELLA AND JUSTICE: (Singing) Circle, circle, dot, dot, now I got my cootie shot. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, Alt.latino, and npr.org.

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