By Kayla McKiski and Antonia Brogna
A pint-sized superhero ran out of Peconic Pediatrics’ Riverhead office, a bandaid on his arm.
“That was hard,” he said. “But I’m wearing a Captain America shirt, so I’m strong!”
Young Captain America, like nearly 100 other patients and parents, got vaccinated at Peconic’s Fall Family Festival, Community Safety Saturday and flu shot clinic on Oct. 21. Now, his superhero body is ready for the flu season.
“The flu is a highly, highly contagious virus, and we know that certain groups of people are at risk—the very young and the very elderly,” Dr. Megan Kasnicki from Peconic said. “It’s important, especially if you’re a healthy person, to get the flu shot, not only to protect yourself, but to protect everybody around you.”
The vaccine has a 65% effectiveness rate against pediatric deaths, according to a study done of 2010-2014 flu season data. Last year’s flu season saw eight pediatric deaths in New York State, less than the 14 seen in the 2012-2013 season.
While the clinic was underway inside, organizations in the back parking lot educated community members about important safety and health practices like safe trick-or-treating, wholesome eating and substance-free living.
Three groups, the Butterfly Effect Project, a nonprofit that empowers girls, Goodale Farms, a local antibiotic-free farm, and the Riverhead Community Awareness Program (CAP), a group that addresses substance abuse in Riverhead schools, had their own tables.
“Youth substance use is a health issue,” Cynthia Redmond, a community prevention specialist for CAP, said. “[Peconic] really does a good job of talking to kids about drugs and alcohol and unsafe behaviors, so we’re happy to help support that.”
Peconic also invited the Riverhead Town Police Department, the Riverhead Volunteer Fire Department and the Flanders Northampton Volunteer Ambulance Corps to answer safety questions.
“Any questions they have in reference to fire safety in the home and escape drills in the home, all that kind of stuff, we’ll answer that for them,” Chief Kevin Brooks of the fire department said. “Then, let them get on the fire truck, take pictures with mom and dad, that kind of stuff.”
The ambulance corps let children try out their stretcher as well.
“We’re friendly about it, we laugh and joke with them, and show them it’s not a scary ride, so when and if they ever do need an ambulance ride, they’re not as scared as they already are for
whatever’s going on,” Christine Culajay, vice president of the ambulance corps, said.
“Hopefully it’ll desensitize him,” Lindsay Trant said after her son sat on the stretcher. “Like when the ambulance goes by, or God forbid he’s ever in one, he’ll be more familiar with it.”
Police officers could also accompany parents to their cars to check that their children’s car seats were properly installed.
Apart from the safety information, the festival also offered families entertainment and activities like pumpkin decorating and face painting.
“They’re having a blast,” Evelyn Tochman said of her two young daughters. “You get to find out about a lot of the things that they do around here. I think this is great.”
Goodale Farms even brought two goats, Mary Jane and Space Jam, for families to pet and feed. On his way out, Young Captain America stopped by to give them some pellets before leaving to face his archenemy—the flu season.