New Barbie Dolls Honor Covid-19 Frontline Medical Workers From Around the World

The series of dolls honor six women who developed Covid-19 vaccines, studied the virus, worked in hospitals, and more

A photo of six Barbie dolls reach representing a frontline worker who worked during the covid-19 pandemic
The one-of-a-kind dolls were designed to represent frontline heroes who worked tirelessly during the pandemic. MATTEL

With over 200 careers on her resume, Barbie celebrates role models and inspires generation after generation to reach beyond the stars and achieve their dreams. On August 4, Mattel honored six women on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic with look-a-like dolls designed to spotlight their efforts.

“Barbie recognizes that all frontline workers have made tremendous sacrifices when confronting the pandemic and the challenges it heightened,” said Lisa McKnight, Mattel's senior vice president and global general manager of Barbie & Dolls, in a statement. “To shine a light on their efforts, we are sharing their stories and leveraging Barbie’s platform to inspire the next generation to take after these heroes and give back. Our hope is to nurture and ignite the imaginations of children playing out their own storyline as heroes.”

Among the dolls is vaccinologist Sarah Gilbert from Oxford University, who led the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine development, reports Xcaret Nuñez for NPR. Over one billion doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine have been distributed worldwide, NPR reports. According to the BBC, the vaccine is one of the most widely distributed coronavirus vaccines globally, with doses reaching over 170 countries.

Gilbert has designed and tested vaccines for over a decade. In June, Gilbert was honored with damehood, the female equivalent of knighthood, by Queen Elizabeth II, reports Pan Pylas for the Associated Press.

At first, she found the gesture strange but hoped it would inspire children to step into STEM careers, per Reuters. Gilbert's doll sports her likeness with signature dark-rimmed glasses, long red hair, and a classic navy pantsuit.

“I am passionate about inspiring the next generation of girls into STEM careers and hope that children who see my Barbie will realize how vital careers in science are to help the world around us,” Gilbert tells Guardian’s Nicola Slawson. “My wish is that my doll will show children careers they may not be aware of, like a vaccinologist.”

Other role models honored with dolls include Brazilian biomedical researcher Jaqueline Goes de Jesus, who led the sequencing of the genome of the Covid-19 variant in Brazil, and emergency room nurse Amy O’Sullivan, who treated the first coronavirus patient at a hospital in Brooklyn, New York, reports CBS News’s Sophie Lewis.

Mattel also created dolls representing Audrey Sue Cruz, an American frontline worker from Las Vegas, Nevada, who fought racial bias and discrimination during the pandemic alongside other healthcare workers; Chika Stacy Oriuwa, a Canadian psychiatry resident who advocated against systemic racism in healthcare; and Kirby White, a general practitioner from Australia who developed a reusable personal protective equipment (PPE) gown, per CBS News.

In a statement, Mattel also announced that for every eligible Barbie doctor, nurse, and paramedic doll sold at Target, the company will donate five dollars to the First Responders Children’s Foundation (FRCF). The foundation helps families of first responders, including nurses, firefighters, medical personnel, emergency medical technicians, police officers, and paramedics.

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