HERSHEY, Pa. — Natalie Sullivan doesn’t carve a massive sculpture out of butter, wrangle ponies or blend the world’s greatest milkshake, but try and find someone at the annual Pennsylvania Farm Show who offers more.
At the Commonwealth’s yearly agriculture fair, Sullivan, a registered nurse in the Emergency Department at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, serves up a little conversation, a bit of a sting (“You might feel like you got punched in the arm for a few days,” she said) and a vaccine that could save your life.
Sullivan is one of more than 80 nurses who volunteer to administer flu shots from Jan. 5 to 12 at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center.
As it has for the past several years, Penn State Health is partnering with the Pennsylvania Department of Health to inoculate free of charge any Farm Show-goers who visit its booth in the facility’s Main Hall. Nurses provide shots from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
“Everyone should get one,” Sullivan said. “We call it herd immunity. If everyone is going to get a flu shot, then we have a huge herd that is protected from the flu.”
The need is dire. The flu virus and its complications killed 80,000 Americans during the 2017-18 season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It infects millions every year — between 5 and 20 percent of the population.
The annual Farm Show draws roughly half a million visitors to see thousands of agriculture exhibits and animals. For nurses like Sullivan, it’s a chance to dispense lifesaving vaccines and information to hundreds of people — a job she fell in love with during her time at Penn State Health and as a Penn State student.
“I’m proud to help,” she said. “Even if it’s just for that little second that I give a flu shot, I still get to know somebody and make an impact on their life.”