All Those With a Smallpox Vaccination Scar Raise Your Hand

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I was a little bewildered today when I went to Walmart.  For one, there was a guy standing in line in front of me and he was only wearing a white t-shirt. It’s cold outside, so I immediately judged him and quietly labeled him a “moron.”   Not that I check out every Tom, Dick, and Moron in Walmart, but since he was right in front of me, I also noticed that when he reached to scratch his arm, he had a scar on his upper left arm.  It was pretty damn big.  Then, I realized it was “the” scar.

For those of you who were born before 1970 or were in a military family, you should know what I am talking about:  The World Health Organization’s Smallpox Eradication program.

So, go get a mirror and look at your left arm. You may just have a scar from the smallpox vaccination.

Are you back? Ok. Let’s move on.

Smallpox has a history of being one of the worst diseases known to man.  According to the World Health Organization, WHO, “The incubation period is followed by the sudden onset of influenza-like symptoms including fever, malaise, headache, prostration, severe back pain and, less often, abdominal pain and vomiting. Two to three days later, the temperature falls and the patient feels somewhat better, at which time the characteristic rash appears, first on the face, hands and forearms and then after a few days progressing to the trunk. Lesions also develop in the mucous membranes of the nose and mouth, and ulcerate very soon after their formation, releasing large amounts of virus into the mouth and throat.”

During the 1950′s there were more than 50 million cases of smallpox worldwide….each year. It killed as many as 30% of those infected.

And it is the only disease that was eradicated because of the vaccine. From the information that I have read on the subject, (historyofvaccines.org) smallpox was a problem worldwide for centuries. In our country, there was a colonial epidemic in 1633. In 1736, Benjamin Franklin lost his son to smallpox. He did not have his son innoculated and with remorse, wrote the following:

“In 1736 I lost one of my Sons, a fine Boy of 4 Years old, taken by the Small Pox in the common way. I long regretted that I had not given it to him by Inoculation, which I mention for the Sake of Parents, who omit that Operation on the Supposition that they should never forgive themselves if a Child died under it; my Example showing that the Regret may be the same either way, and that therefore the safer should be chosen.”

— Benjamin Franklin, quoted in Franklin on Franklin by Paul Zall

In 1776, 10,000 soldiers with the Continental army in Canada were struck down with smallpox. There was a rumor that a British officer sent infected soldiers into battle to deliberately expose the enemy. This caused the Continental army to retreat, keeping the northern British colonies together.

John Adams wrote, ” Our misfortunes in Canada are enough to melt the heart of stone. The smallpox is ten times more terrible than the British, Canadians and Indians together. This was the cause of our precipitate retreat from Quebec.”

— John Adams, quoted in Ian Glynn and Jenifer Glynn, The Life and Death of Smallpox

The timeline marches on.

In 1781, future president Andrew Jackson, contracted smallpox. His brother, Robert, died of the disease.

In 1796, Edward Jenner came up with a vaccine. He tested it on a boy (well, guinea pigs didn’t get smallpox) and it was a success. After that, many countries began innoculation programs. It was brought to our country in 1800.

Fastforward to 1862. During the Civil War, several pockets of the disease popped up.

A hospital was built in Richmond just for smallpox. The Smallpox hospital lost more than 100 patients in one week. During Christmas in 1862, the hospital admitted 250 patients. Only 140 survived the outbreak.

smallpox victim, circa 1912
Fast forward once again to 1922. By this time, the United States has put in place mandatory innoculation. Children would not be permitted to attend school until they received a smallpox vaccination.
In 1967, WHO, the World Health Organization, implemented a worlwide smallpox eradication program.
Reported numbers often underestimated the true number of cases.

I don’t remember how old I was when I had the smallpox vaccine. I was born in 1956. I think I was around ten or eleven, but I’m not sure.  My mom and dad both had scars on their upper left arms. Both of them were pretty large. So, imagine my anguish when I found out I was going to get the smallpox vaccine. I remember standing in line to get it. I am not positive, but I think I was at school. The guidelines were to innoculate anywhere between birth and three years of age and the booster was given 5-10 years after. The first one was more like a scraping.

The mass vaccination strategy did eradicate smallpox. You were lucky if you were only left with a small vaccination scar. The scar was supposed to be no bigger than the size of a dime. Mine was the size of a dime. Many people weren’t so lucky. But, they were lucky they didn’t contract smallpox.

The scar left behind looked like a bunch of little craters.

After receiving the vaccination, after three or four days, a red, itchy bump developed at the site. After the first week, the bump became a large blister, filled with pus, and then it began to drain. During the second week, the blister began to dry and then a scab formed. In theory, by the fourth week, the scab was supposed to fall off, leaving a “small” scar.  For some. For others, it left a huge scar that looked like a bunch of little craters. I used to look at people’s arms just to see if they had a huge scar. I was scared to death. I was sure my skinny little arm would be one huge scar.

My mom took care of it though. I think it was hard for boys to take care of their blistered, filled with pus, scab. And I will tell you why. They used to give each other a little quick punch on each other’s arms. Why? Because they were retarded. Well, that’s the word we girls would use back then to describe boys in general anyway. I believe that some are worse because of the itching during the healing process. I didn’t itch mine. I didn’t touch mine. I was not going to have a gigantic swirl of scars on my arm.

The last epidemic of smallpox in the US was in Texas in 1949, seven years before I was born. The last worldwide case was in Somalia in 1977. The US officially stopped vaccinating the general public against smallpox in 1972 but continued to vaccinate certain military personnel until 1990.

So, after staring at the moron in Walmart today and coming home, curious about “the” scar, I learned a great deal.

The most important thing I learned is that I am innoculated against one of the most evil diseases known to man. That’s a good thing. The bad thing is that my children aren’t. Most of your children aren’t.

Let’s only hope it never rears its ugly head again.

*****************************************************************************

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Jumping in Mud Puddles: A Memoir of a Picky, Hyper, Big Fat Liar

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123 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Jacob on February 5, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    I am in the military and i recieved mine 2014 prior to deployment.

    You have to get your small pox vaccination renewed every ten years.

    Army Medic

    Reply

  2. Posted by sarah on November 15, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    I’m the only one in my family that had the vaccination. I remember it well. It really hurt and a mean looking nurse dragged me off to have it. I kicked her. The scar is very big and ugly on the top of my right arm. I have read they believe some of us even from this time are immune for Life? Yet according to what I googled the evidence is still out. Opinions differ whether or not we are immune.

    Reply

    • I have always read we are immune, but lately have read that may not be the case either. I think they made a big mistake by not continuing with the vaccination program..because you just never know.

      Reply

      • Posted by Jack Malone on November 24, 2013 at 1:38 pm

        At least make it available so those of us who want a booster can get one and those that want to have their kids vaccinated can do so as well as those born after 1972 that never had one.

  3. Posted by Georgia on October 10, 2013 at 5:58 pm

    My sister and I were both given the vaccination on my upper left leg. The person that administer the vaccination said he didn’t want the girls to have scars on their arms. Pretty darn nice.

    Reply

    • Posted by Jack Malone on October 12, 2013 at 2:19 pm

      My Mom had her smallpox vaccination scar on her upper left leg also. I also have a friend in her mid 40′s that has her scar there also. I understand that for some girls they gave them the vaccination on the back of their left shoulder. Both locations were more appropriate cosmetically. I remember the school nurse checking our arms for our scars and a few of the girls had theirs on a leg or on their back.

      Reply

    • Posted by sarah on November 12, 2013 at 5:04 pm

      Does this mean you are immune for life from a vaccination given over 30 years ago. I’ve read some articles online that this might be case, but the jury stills out.

      Reply

      • Posted by Jack Malone on November 24, 2013 at 1:31 pm

        The CDC says the initial smallpox vaccination provides a high level of immunity for 3-5 years afterward and that revaccination would lengthen that somewhat but only with a marginally higher level of protection than just one. In 2009, researchers with the National Institute of Aging concluded that levels of vaccine-specific antibody titers and neutralizing antibodies remained high enough to indicate continued immunity in individuals who had been vaccinated as children. So older adults who were vaccinated at least once appear to remain immune. It was already known that those who survive having smallpox have lifelong immunity.

        I would still feel better if I could be vaccinated again and boost my immunity just a little bit, even if it means a fresh scar.

    • I was born in 1950, and my smallpox scar is also on my left upper thigh. My doctor at the time made a habit of giving all the little girls the vaccine on the leg instead of the arm, so that the scar would not show with sleeveless dresses and so on. In fact, most of the bathing suits at the time had little skirts, too, so even the scar on the leg was not all that noticeable. With time it faded, and I never recall it being an issue in later life, even with more revealing swimwear. Mine was only about the size of a nickel, just a round circle with a lot of little tiny dots in it, so I guess I was lucky.

      Reply

  4. Posted by Holly on August 13, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    I’m really confused because I have a smallpox vaccine scar on my upper left arm but I was born in 1999 smallpox was long gone by then so why was I vaccinated? Does it have anything to do with the fact that I was born in south america?

    Reply

    • It very well could, but I couldn’t say for sure. You might try googling smallpox vaccine 1999 and see what comes up

      Reply

    • Posted by Jack Malone on August 13, 2013 at 5:52 pm

      Holly, more than likely it is a scar from a BCG vaccination given to protect against TB. Smallpox vaccination was discontinued around 1972 so unless you were in the military or volunteered for a clinical trial, it’s hardly doubtful you ever got a smallpox vaccination. Many countries use the BCG vaccine even to this day. (It was never a routine vaccination in the US) The scar can sometimes resemble the scar from a smallpox vaccination.

      Reply

  5. Posted by Erica on June 4, 2013 at 12:01 am

    I came here while I was looking up the BCG vacine. I was born in the United Kingdom in 1950 and I don’t think I even had the smallpox vacination as I had eczema (still do) Anyway, I came to the USA in 1979, and several years ago I had applied for a job as a ward secretary with a local hospital, and I was given a TB skin test that came back positive. They sent me to the local health dept for further test (xrays) which they seemed to think were normal. They just told me that I probably had what was called latent TB, and to keep a watch for any kind of chest infections when I got older as a small percentage of people could become active in later years. I didn’t remember having the BCG vacination while all this was going on at the time, but I recently found my old school vacination records in my mothers attic back home in England and saw that I had a TB Tine skin test at age 13 that was negative, and then 6 days later I was given a BCG vacination. Could the BCG vacination cause a false positive on any future TB skin test? I would really like to put my mind at rest as I am now 62, and have for the past 20 years worried that I might develop TB.

    Reply

    • I’m sorry, I have absolutely no idea. I would think you would have already shown some signs of tb, but that’s just my opinion. I don’t know too much about tb

      Reply

    • Posted by Jack Malone on June 13, 2013 at 12:21 pm

      Yes, the BCG vaccination can/does result in a false positive TB test, especially if it was given after early infancy, if it was given more than once and/or if it was given in the last 5 – 10 years. When being given a TB test, one should advise the nurse that they have previously received the bcg vaccination. Most people have a scar from the vaccination as proof, even though it may fade over time.

      Reply

    • Posted by Jack Malone on June 13, 2013 at 12:28 pm

      Erica, also it was common in the UK to vaccinate all school children at the age of 13 with the BCG vaccine. That practice started in 1953 and continued until 2005. Now they usually vaccinate infants who are in areas of high risk. Hope this helps. (and yes, Eczema would be a contra-indication to receiving the smallpox vaccination)

      Reply

    • Posted by Perception on September 14, 2013 at 10:15 pm

      You will not contact TB. Many many people are “sensitive” to the titer they use to prick the skin. Also, the percentage of people, who are positive, who then develop the disease are very small. I’ve heard it’s about 5 percent and only if their immune system is severely compromised, even then,it’s rare. I used to work with an infectious disease doctor. I thought I was positive. I’ve worked in the health care field for many years.

      I am one of the ones allergic to the skin prick test. The area turns red just like I’m positive. The doctors will argue back and forth yes, she is, the nurse will run a pen across my skin, and say, “no, defined bump, she’s not been exposed”.
      NOW, because of my sensitivity the hospital runs some type of interferon gold test.
      I’m probably way off on spelling, but, it’s a blood test.
      I’m Not positive. Never have been. Doctors wanted me to take those pills for a year when in my 20′s. you have to monitor your liver functions. My gut instinct was to say no.
      Think God. Neither failed me.

      Reply

  6. Posted by YK on May 6, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    I hav never known that the scar on my left arm was from a small pox vaccine until today in health my teaher brought it up. I was born in February 1999 and was born in the United States, so why do I have this vaccine?? Nobody else had it in my class. I don’t even remember getting the shot. I had this scar since as long as I could remember.

    Reply

  7. Posted by jo on May 2, 2013 at 3:11 pm

    oh my god.. weird as I have the same scar and have only ever been told “it’s a vaccination mark” I never questioned it till my daughter in law just asked what it was and I googled it!… I was born 1970 though my dad was in the army so I’m guessing that’s shy I got done?? my siblings are older though and I don’t think they have the scar.. my mom does
    … I’m 43 now and ha ha it’s took all this time for me to find out exactly what it actually was. .. interesting!

    Reply

  8. Posted by Samantha on April 25, 2013 at 1:20 am

    They still vaccinate the military when traveling to certain places. Trust me, I have a lovely little pink scar (on my right arm, though. Slightly smaller than a dime and puffy, weirdly enough, like a normal scar instead of crater-like.) from getting it back in January. The scar stil itches from time to time..

    Reply

    • Posted by Jack Malone on April 26, 2013 at 12:22 pm

      Samantha, would the reason you got vaccinated on your right arm be because you are left handed? The practice is usually to give it on your non-dominant arm. I believe they went back to vaccinating certain military members around 2002.

      On a side note, currently there are Phase III clinical trials being conducted nationwide to test the immunogenicity and safety of three consecutive production lots of the IMVAMUNE smallpox vaccine in healthy individuals. Any healthy person between the ages of 18-40 who has never received the smallpox vaccination (such as the military) is eligible. Compensation is $575. Here’s an opportunity for those who never got the chance to receive the smallpox vaccination and have that coveted circular scar on their arm to not only get vaccinated but get paid as well.

      Reply

  9. Posted by Joanna on April 4, 2013 at 12:59 am

    I had my vaccine done when I was 5 iam now 24,for some reason I had to get a second shot so I have two scars in the same arm. One of the scars I have is really tender to the touch.. Does anyone suffers from the same thing ?

    Reply

    • Posted by Highlandsbound on April 13, 2013 at 9:21 am

      I would have thought both scars would have looked and felt the same. Are they close together. My one is tough and callused and has no feeling. Perhaps if you rubbed lotion on the tender one it would firm up.

      Reply

    • Posted by Jack Malone on April 17, 2013 at 7:24 pm

      Joanna, unless you were in the military you are much too young to have received a smallpox vaccination so if the vaccination you did receive left a scar, it was from the BCG vaccine to prevent TB. Each BCG vaccination will usually leave a separate scar. Routine smallpox vaccination almost worldwide ceased in 1972,

      Reply

  10. Posted by Jack Malone on March 28, 2013 at 8:58 pm

    PS. The vaccine used in the US until 1972 was the Dryvax vaccine made by Wyeth Laboratories. The vaccine they use now is ACAM2000, made by Acambis (which was bought by Sanofi Pasteur). It is still made from “live” vaccinia virus. It’s still administered the same way, still causes a blister, still itches like crazy and still leaves an indented circular scar. The vaccination site is now covered with a loose fitting bandage, not the little plastic cup they used to use when we got vaccinated in the 50′s and 60′s. The CDC has enough vaccine to vaccinate every man, woman and child should the need arise.. The smallpox vaccine provides ‘high-level’ immunity for 3-5 years with waning immunity thereafter. If you are re-vaccinated, immunity lasts even longer. Healthy people usually just experience a sore arm and possibly fever and body aches. Those with eczema or weakened immune systems may experience serious side effects including death. Clinical trials involving smallpox vaccines are still being conducted so if there is a study going on near you, you may have the opportunity to participate, build up your immunity to smallpox and make good money (and be able to show off your vaccination scar).

    Reply

    • Posted by John Barry on April 13, 2013 at 8:45 am

      You seem very well versed on the subject Are you a DR.?? Also i’m in Connecticut and missed the 1st trail do you know if there are trails in my area?? OH and i was vaccinated in 1958(Navy) that was my 2nd time. John Barry

      Reply

  11. Posted by Jack Malone on March 28, 2013 at 7:42 pm

    Routine smallpox vaccination was discontinued in the US in 1972, later for the military. In 2003, the military began to vaccinate for smallpox once again for those going into certain areas of the world. Most anyone with a scar on their upper left arm or upper right arm that they got after 1972 most likely has a scar from the BCG vaccination given to protect against TB. The US never routinely used the BCG vaccine but a lot of European countries did, and some still do, mainly at birth for those at risk. Some of the BCG vaccination programs administered the vaccine in schools to teenagers at late as 2005 such as in England and Brazil. The BCG vaccination scar can look similar to the scar from the smallpox vaccination but usually is smaller. The smallpox vaccination was given using the multiple puncture method, taking a bifucated (two prong) needle with a drop of vaccine on the tip and pricking the skin several times. After 3-5 days, if the vaccination was successful, a blister would appear and remain for a week or two and then the scab would fall off leaving a circular scar. The BCG vaccine was given by injecting the vaccine just under the skin of the upper left (or right) arm, causing the vaccine to make a raised lump. Over a period of months, the injection site would heal and eventually leave a small circular scar. In the case of the BCG or the Smallpox vaccination, if the vaccination site was hit or scraped while healing, the resulting scar could become larger. Also, in the case of the smallpox vaccination, doctors would sometimes administer the vaccination on a girl/woman’s thigh to avoid her having a scar on her arm, especially in the early days of smallpox vaccination on through the 1940s & ’50s. In most cases of re-vaccination with the smallpox vaccine, it would rarely leave another scar since the resulting reaction would be less severe due to existing immunity. Re-vaccination with the BCG vaccine usually leaves another scar. The BCG vaccination oftem took months to heal. Clinical trials are still being conducted with varying smallpox vaccines. There are also studies underway to develop a better vaccine against TB. Comments or questions welcome.

    Reply

  12. Posted by gebuh on March 28, 2013 at 6:31 pm

    african slaves introduced smallpox variolation to the US colonies.

    Reply

    • Posted by Yeuphonic on March 29, 2013 at 4:09 am

      wrong. Europeans introduced small pox in blankets to the trusting Native Americans as gifts, yes gifts, knowing mothers would wrap their children in them. It was the Native Americans who taught them to farm and travel through the new found land. The blog post is very nostalgic (love that) with historical truths (some call it karma), speculation (Egypt) and a stunning omission about the history of America and small pox (biological wmd). Europeans also introduced small pox to Africans but made considerable effort not to take any sick cargo(slaves) AND crew for the half year long sail.

      Reply

  13. Posted by Kristi on March 23, 2013 at 7:54 pm

    I remember getting the vaccine. I was born in 1967. I distinctly remember being embarrassed by the plastic thing with air holes stuck on my arm. After reading this article I went to check my scar. I know I had one but now I cannot find it. Must be all the sunburns and suntans over the years living in Texas. I remember it being about half an inch in diameter. I’m more worried about melanoma than smallpox now. Makes me wonder if all of us who had the vaccine way back when will need another one if the pox came back…

    Reply

    • Mine has disappeared also. I read that we are fully protected. I just worry about my children.

      Reply

      • Posted by Cassandra Waller on September 20, 2013 at 12:13 pm

        I was born in 1966, in the US, and still have a scar about the size of a nickel. My Texas tans and sunburns changed nothing. I have often wondered if I am still immune, as I now live in Europe. My biggest concern is for my daughter who was born in 2002 in Europe. I continue to contemplate the truth of modern information. Do we need to vaccinate our children? Do we need a “booster” as we near 50?

      • Hi Cassandra…I’m 56 and have never heard anything about a booster. I also wondered about my children who were born in the late 80′s. They say it has been eradicated and there is no need to vaccinate, but who knows for sure…and I have one who know lives in eastern Europe right now.

  14. 1964, first grade. We all lined up and got our smallpox injections. Actually, I remember them taking a needle set, and quickly tapping five times into our left arms if we were right handed. Some of the girls, (with accompanying mothers in tow) got to have them in the thigh, in private. I also remember them giving us the “Magic Sugar Cubes”. Doses of the Salk polio vaccine, (colored light pink) dropped onto sugar cubes to eliminate the injections. Or maybe that was the only way to administer them.

    Reply

  15. Posted by 1highlandslad on March 7, 2013 at 1:10 am

    Like your ‘friend’ at Wallmart I was vaccinated for smallpox. Since that day hardly a day goes by that I don’t think about it or look at my scar.

    Reply

  16. Posted by Cordell Silverthorn on February 6, 2013 at 8:02 am

    Smallpox, a highly contagious disease, is unique only to humans. The smallpox virus is caused by two virus variants called Variola major and Variola minor. Variola major is the more deadly form of the virus; it usually has a mortality rte of 20-40 percent of those that are infected with the virus. Variola minor on the other hand is much less severe and only kills 1% of its victims. Neither of the Variola’s are bugs that you want to get. Avoid them at all costs!.,

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    Reply

  17. Posted by Barbara on February 3, 2013 at 3:28 am

    I was born in Chile, in ’76. I feel lucky to have had the vaccine as well, and mine only left a small scar.

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  18. Posted by Frozen North on February 1, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    Interesting stories. Realized I hadn’t given those scars much thought lately and decided to look it up.

    I was born in 1969 in Canada. I got the smallpox vaccine but my skin didn’t react. So they gave it to me again, but still no reaction and thus no scar. The doc figured I might already have been immune, due to my mother getting the vaccine before she realized she was pregnant with me. I remember my brother (born 1971) having a clear plastic bubble-shaped thing with air holes taped to his arm for protection after his vaccination. I was doubly, possibly triply, innocculated, but I don’t have the “badge” to prove it!

    Reply

  19. Posted by Susan Bellamacina on January 31, 2013 at 12:15 am

    Just returned from a trip to Argentina and Chile and noticed that almost all of the young people I saw had smallpox vaccination scars. It’s summer there so most arms were bare. Apparently the vaccine is still being given there!

    Reply

    • Thanks for sharing that information. :)

      Reply

    • Posted by Jack Malone on March 28, 2013 at 7:49 pm

      Hi Susan, what you were seeing in Chile and Argentina were kids with BCG vaccination scars which can be similar to the scar caused by the smallpox vaccine but are usually smaller. The BCG vaccine is given to protect against Tuberculosis. The smallpox vaccine hasn’t been given anywhere in the World since about 1980 (except for military and certain health care providers). Young people in Brazil, England, Russia and other countries may also have the BCG vaccination scars since they were still vaccinating school kids as late as 2005.

      Reply

      • Jack- Thank you so much for the explanation of similar scars from BCG vaccine. I knew about BCG but not about the scar from it. I discussed what I had noticed with 2 med students from Buenos Aires and they were under the impression that smallpox vaccine was still being given in their country. Perhaps something was lost in translation./ Susan

  20. Posted by sabrina901 on January 24, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    I was born in 1990, and my father was a Navy man until I was about four or five. I remember asking my mom why I have a weird scar on my arm. I guess since he was going to Haiti and Desert Storm, they made us all get the vaccination. I get a lot of friends that ask me why I have a weird looking scar on my arm, but I don’t really mind explaining to them what it’s for. (You’d think as a 22 yr old, Id be more self conscious about it)

    Reply

  21. Posted by brian on January 15, 2013 at 12:53 am

    further to my last comment, Robin, Terry, Pak, Glenn, E5in et al appear to be fortunate to have either no or really small scars whereas, before I even reached fifteen, I had many such scars done in the home, each as large and ugly as the previous ones. On going into the military after that, I merely added to the high tally already attained. Only recently after being in hospital and getting more attention because of the scars rather than what I was in for, I decided that enough was enough and I am now about to get a few of the scars covered by tattoos – we shall see how many I can
    camouflage.

    Reply

  22. Posted by brian on January 14, 2013 at 9:49 pm

    when i was around 12 years old I was used in a revaccination experiment which left 30 of us orphans with five scars on top of the four primary vaccinations we each had from infancy. As if that were not bad enough, we were then challenged by being given a further four insert revaccination on the sixth day to test the level of our immunity restoration. only t6wo of us failed the cdhallenge which is why i and j quigley managed to have nine scarsa from that experiment… NEVER SHIRTLESS SINCE…..

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    • OH my gosh! I can not believe you were used in an experiment like that. :( I’m so sorry to hear that.

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    • Posted by Tundra on March 25, 2013 at 12:30 pm

      Brian, you were a “guinea pig” for a gov’t. run drug program. Unfortunately, our gov’t. views soldiers as nothing more than expendable “pawns” as well. Poor minorities, orphans, soldiers – all perfect candidates for their poisons. Hope you’re doing ok.

      Reply

  23. Posted by Guest on January 12, 2013 at 11:42 pm

    I was born in Singapore in ’91 and have one. I’ve always wondered what it is. My dad said it was from a vaccination, but I never understood how a needle could leave a donut scar. Enter Google. I’m glad that I’ve already done it because there’s no way I’d want someone to “scrape” my arm these days, but I’m worried because I read that you’re supposed to get a follow-up booster and I don’t remember having one. I left Singapore when I was 4, so that would be why. So, if I didn’t have one (I’ll have to ask), it’s possible that I have a scar for nothing… That would suck. :/

    Reply

    • Thanks for writing. I remember the one in grade school. Since you are young, you may have it written on an immunization record. If you started school in another country, they may have wanted proof of immunization.

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  24. Posted by Hank on January 6, 2013 at 11:43 am

    I didn’t read all the comments, but a lot are about feeling self-conscious? Give me the scar over smallpox any day! So many people have it. Like the chicken pox scar on you forehead (I see quite a few of those and that’s the one I scratched: mom said “Why did you have to scratch that one!”). I am worried for our children though. Since there are samples (who really knows how many are out there?) still in existence, non-innoculated persons are still at risk. But don’t be self conscious, it is a badge of citizenship. WE helped erradicate small pox and those without it should say “thank you”. And it’s our generations “tattoo” (I’m a guy so we don’t mind small scars and guys that would find it unattractive on a woman are UBER shallow). And thanks to JumpingInMudPuddles for reminding me why I have “The Mark” and the whole history.

    Reply

  25. [...] so many scars it’s not even funny. And many people his age have an identical scar from the smallpox vaccination. An old friend has a scar on his back from a skateboarding accident while another friend has scars [...]

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  26. The US military didn’t stop in 1990. I was deployed to Iraq in ’05-’06, and we were required to get the smallpox vaccine before we got to Iraq. So I have a little scar on my left shoulder!

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    • Thanks for writing! Glad you are back from Iraq safe and sound! I wonder why just the military is being vaccinated? There are a lot of citizens who travel or live in other parts of the world for part of the year. It’s amazing how many people are googling “smallpox vaccination” lately. I wonder why?

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      • Posted by Robin on December 10, 2012 at 3:03 pm

        Hey Jumping,
        The scary answer is that there are still two (acknowledged) samples of the smallpox bacteria – one in the US and one in the former Soviet Union. The fear was originally that the Soviet Union would use smallpox as a weapon. Then, after the USSR broke up, and the remaining former Soviet states got poor really fast, a lot of the scientists who’d worked on it were unemployed, broke, and getting hungry. So the fear was that they’d sell their knowledge to people like Saddam Hussein, and our troops would face smallpox as a weapon.

        As far as I know, *standard* immunization of US troops ended in 1990, but if our troops are going into anything resembling combat, they get smallpox vaccinations (and anthrax, and a bunch of other communicable illnesses).

      • Thanks, Robin. I read about the Soviet Union..sounds like a spy novel, doesn’t it? Scary stuff.

  27. I was born in Poland, and I know many Polish youth that were born there that have the scar. I’m not sure if the Polish gov’t still vaccinates for smallpox, but they did as recently as 16 years ago. Mine is very small, but that’s partially because my parents moved us to Canada in ’92 when I was only 4 years old. I was very self-concious of it growing up since none of my friends and classmates had it.

    Reply

  28. Posted by Terry on November 14, 2012 at 9:36 am

    Mine is so uber small, especially for a guy, I’ve seen some huge scars. I believe I had one at age seven when coming to the states and had another in school. Is this the one where we all lined up and they gave them with an “air gun” injector? Is that why there’s the scar? I was more scared of that injector than I had been of any needle and like most kids I didn’t like them either. Yet, being in line you didn’t want to have your classmates seeing you being a scaredy cat. I did just read that it’s not necessarily a lifetime immunity. That.. and it could possibly last a lifetime and it’s been shown due to it attaching to a certain nerve transmitter? that those with smallpox vaccinations might be at less risk to pick up HIV.. OBVIOUSLY this is ZERO reason to ever put yourself at risk. It was fun reading your thread.

    Reply

  29. Posted by Pak on November 1, 2012 at 4:27 am

    My Singaporean Chinese mother who was born in 1962 got a vaccination scar. Not sure what vaccine did she get though. Her scar is about the size of the finger nail of my small finger, very shallow, and barely noticeable. This is in sharp contrast to the huge and deep ones that Americans have. Even the American Chinese who were vaccinated developed the large scars. The disturbing thing is how the American scars so much larger and deeper than the miniscule Singaporean ones even though the method of and immunity provided by the vaccination procedure is the same in both nations. Perhaps it has something to do with scars being very negatively perceived in Chinese societies and therefore, Singaporean doctors are much more careful and gentle while administering the vaccine so as to avoid inflicting a large, deep, and unpleasant blemish on smooth skin.

    There is the possibility that the people who claim their scars look nice do so out of denial. They feel uncomfortable about accepting the fact that deep inside their minds, they still perceive these vaccination scars as ugly blemishes, so denying this makes them feel better about it.

    It would be nice if there were some type of reconstructive surgical procedure to reduce or hide these vaccination scars.

    It is a great relief to be born into a period where these scarring vaccinations no longer need to be compulsory since the disease has been under control. Unfortunately, this relief was made possible because previous generations took the blemishes.

    Reply

    • How incredibly interesting your post is! Thank you for taking the time to write. I remember lining up at our school and being jabbed. They definitely didn’t take the time. Also, kids messed with their arms, and I really think that had a lot to do with the size perhaps?? Maybe not, but mine remained small, but still noticeable.

      Reply

      • Posted by sharon on December 7, 2012 at 12:11 am

        I was born in 1957 and my scar is on the top of my thigh, the doctor said I was to pretty to have any scars on my arm, ( how sweet) I have never heard of anyone getting them on their leg, Then in the 1970 I had a serious break out of cancor sores in my mouth like 17 of them and the doctor gave me a series of small pox shots and I havent had anymore.

      • I’ve never heard of anyone getting that shot in their thigh either. Small pox shots for cancor sores? I’m learning new things every day..lol Thanks for sharing!

      • Posted by Storm on April 9, 2013 at 10:03 pm

        Mine is also on my upper right thigh. My mother didn’t want me to have “The Scar” showing with dresses. This was in the late 60′s possibly in the early 70′s. I really don’t remember it but I remember getting the magic sugar cube, then having to bend over to check for scoliosis, when they diagnosed as me not having it, when later I had a 36% curvature. Ahh, those were the days! Lol.

    • Posted by Anna on November 24, 2012 at 12:28 pm

      So, about the denying… My story is so odd. I am from Finland and as you may know it is a country where the summer is short and most of the year you can’t wear sleeveless dresses etc. I am 47 years old now. When I was just under 4 my little brother and I got that vaccination. I didn´t really know what they were doing but I can still remeber how I was terrified when I saw the needle and understood they are really going to hurt me with it. And so happened. I also remember the red dot in my arm. I thought it will fade out and that´s it. So I grew up thinking there is no vaccination scar in my arm and I was glad about it. I had seen so many big and ugly vaccination scars but I thought only older people had them. I was wrong! In my country they still continued these vaccinations in the 70´s. I was about 40 when I got to know the truth. It was a warm and sunny summer day. I was standing in front of a mirror wearing summer clothes and something was shining in my arm. I saw it was a tiny little vaccination scar, even smaller than a dime. I have no need to deny it since I don´t find it so ugly. However, I wonder how blind or stupid I must have been most of my life.
      Sorry about my imperfect english. I just had to tell this.

      Reply

  30. I just want to add why dont other people coming in to this counrty have tests?

    Reply

    • I’m so sorry to hear about your sister. I have no idea why people don’t have tests when they come here. I know that my son had to have several shots when he left to live in The Republic of Georgia this past summer. I had no idea that they would give the smallpox vaccine in the thigh. I have never heard of that before. Thanks for writing! :)

      Reply

  31. my eldest sister had the vacination at 4 yrs old in 1920′s it went wrong and she died, my mother never had any more of her 10 children vacinated for anything, when I decided to come to America from Scotland I had to have the vacination, the doctor gave it on my thigh so it wouldnt show , I did have a major reaction to it but it healed, I now have a scar on my thighj.

    Reply

  32. Posted by Danica on September 10, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    I’m 16 years old and have “the scar” I was born in the phillippines…

    Reply

    • Posted by Jack Malone on March 28, 2013 at 8:22 pm

      Danica, what you probably have is a scar from the BCG vaccination. It’s given to protect against TB and is given in many European countries.

      Reply

  33. Posted by Natalie Anne Petersen on August 26, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    Hi my name is Natalie, I am 42+ years old, I was apparently born in Western Australia and I have a smallpox injection scar on my left arm, I was told it was accidentally given to me when I was 1 years old and I maybe adopted, Can you give me any information that may help as to why I have a smallpox injection scar ? Thankyou, Regards Natalie.

    Reply

    • Hi. I am sorry, I really have no idea. If you were born in Australia, their country’s requirements may be different than in the United States. They may have given the smallpox vaccine later. I’m sorry I can’t help.

      Reply

    • Posted by Robin on December 10, 2012 at 3:20 pm

      I have a guess, but it’s only a guess. First, the method of innoculation may make a difference. The bifurcated needle (needle with two prongs, like a tiny BBQ fork) probably makes a smaller scar than the air gun. It may be that the relative strength of the dose makes a difference. And, lastly, how vigorously the person’s immune system resists the innoculation might make a difference – a gentle reaction would cause a smaller scar (but also means that the immunization might not last as long), where as a very strong reaction would cause a larger scar (with longer immunity, but a greater chance of having a bad reaction).

      Reply

  34. Posted by Steph on August 21, 2012 at 4:26 am

    I’m only 25 years old and was born in feb. Of 1987 and I have the circle scar on my upper left arm and idk why? I’m the youngest of my siblings and I’m the only one with it….would their be any reason just for me to have it? I had gotten the chicken pic once at an age I remember and they was not bad at all and I have no memory of getting this vaccine or how I got the scar in a complete circle with small craters in the circle… Can anyone tell me why?

    Reply

  35. Posted by Cathy on August 19, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    I thought I had to get it to start school, but maybe I was older. I know they didn’t didn’t give them at our schools, we got them at the Dr. office. remember they taped an oval medal thing over mine to keep me from scratching it. Seems like everybody had one. The next thing I remember was the big scab, it was huge and it itched! It was a rite of passage and everybody had one. We all felt a little safer because of it, like you it worries me a little that the kids don’t have that.

    Reply

  36. [...] QR codes on ads today often feels like spotting the smallpox vaccine scar. You know—that cratered mark on your left arm that is, more than anything, an indelible marker of [...]

    Reply

  37. I got the shot in 1981 which is well over the time period talked about here , but I believe that since I was born in Chile that, that was as medically advance as they were for that time and place. I am now 31 and I forgot about that scar till someone at work asked me the other day , so I had to research it and thanks to this posting at least I now know what it was for.

    Reply

    • I was born in Mexico in ’81 and I too have the same round scar on my upper arm. Mine is on my right arm, not on the left like I’ve read in many articles.

      Reply

  38. Posted by Melissa Kooyman on August 3, 2012 at 11:35 pm

    I remember getting the vaccine in school, but- there was never a scab, needless to say, now there is no scar. My husband says it’s because I have a natural immunity to smallpox…anyone know different? why no reaction? If immune- thats terrific..but me thinks maybe that is too good to be true. Well I’m not going to worry about it. Just curious. lucky me.

    Reply

  39. Posted by Debi Trascher on August 1, 2012 at 7:45 am

    I have one, but… now 50 years later it turned red… wonder why?

    Reply

  40. I was given the vaccine in the early sixties but it didn’t ‘take.’ My father, who was a physician, decided not to have me revaccinated because when the vaccine went wrong, it was fatal, and the disease was on the wane. My older brother and my husband, however, both have ‘the scar.’ My younger brother was just young enough to miss smallpox vaccines.
    We all got everything else, though. As children of the fifties, we knew how nasty mumps, measles, polio, etc. could be and went with SCIENCE. Sadly, half a century later, SCIENCE is now a bad word.

    Reply

  41. Posted by P. Applesmith on July 3, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    My 33-year old husband in the Marine Corps has a scar, too. When he got deployed to the Middle East a couple years ago, he also got vaccinated. The military still does it; you’ll still have to guess how old people are, even if they have a scar! Rats! :)

    Reply

  42. Posted by Marcie on June 2, 2012 at 12:50 am

    My scar is on my right arm. I jumped off a picnic table onto a 3-4 inch nail and had to get a tetanus shot in my left arm. The doctor decided to give my sister, brother, and I the small pox shot since we were already at his office. I couldn’t have two shots in the same arm so my scar is on my right arm. The school I attended attempted to give me the shot again when I was in about the 5th or6th grade but I convinced them to stop and look at my right arm. They finally listened and I did not have to have the shot again. :-)

    Reply

    • omg, I can’t even imagine being impaled by a nail. Yikes. Now, in our school district, they wouldn’t have cared. Luckily you spoke up! I have a few students who are so shy that they would just have taken the shot in the left arm. That’s good the listened to you.

      Reply

  43. Posted by John Barry on May 3, 2012 at 11:04 am

    Hi; I got mine around 9/10yrs old and boy did it itch after about 4/5 days;and you were told do not scratch it or you could re-vaccinate yourself if you touch another part of your body. Weird but in the summer you’d get a good tan except for that scar area.

    Reply

    • HI! Wait. You were told not to scratch it or you could revaccinate yourself? Wow. Is that true? lol I was just told not to scratch it or it would leavea huge scar and then no one would ever marry me when I grew up. ok, that’s a lie..lol

      Reply

      • Posted by John Barry on May 3, 2012 at 10:55 pm

        HI AGAIN; Yeah it happened to my dad; he was doing something and he scratched his; then had to scratch the back of his neck and bingo in a few days he had another “vaccination” mark,(true story)!! Also about vaccination not taking—it seems to me we were told that was the reason for all the “pricks”; it had to show a little blood and that meant that the “vaccination” took

      • I had no idea. Thanks for sharing.

    • Posted by Robin on December 10, 2012 at 3:32 pm

      Not exactly re-vaccinate, but something called autovaccination. The fear was that you’d scratch the site, pick up the infectious material and then touch your eyes. You think it was bad on your arm? Imagine the same conditions and SCAR on your eyes.

      Reply

  44. Posted by mel on April 15, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    I had the vaccine twice as a kid, and neither one took, so I have no scar. I often wondered what that meant in terms of my immunity. Maybe I am immune to the disease?

    Reply

  45. [...] All Those With a Smallpox Vaccination Scar Raise Your Hand (dyingbraincells.wordpress.com) [...]

    Reply

  46. It’s a scar we should all be proud to wear! I escaped with almost no scar but would gladly sport one the size of a baseball if it were the only way to avoid having that hideous and horrific disease. I am mortified when otherwise intelligent people forgo proven prophylactic treatments because they have some sort of “*maybe* it’s dangerous” concept or even worse, conspiracy theories of various sorts. To me, it’s no different when people get all agitated about the dangers of fluoridated water: I am one of four sisters who were in one of the first places in the country to have fluoride in our water system *and* dentists using fluoride treatments and, given that we come from a long line of people (right down to our parents) with “normal”–cavity-filled–teeth and all four of us have passed 40+ years of age without a single cavity, well you tell me whether that’s not worth a try! I’m weird, yes, but nobody would blame that on the fluoride.

    Smiling widely and whitely at you! :D
    Kathryn

    Reply

  47. I’ve got the scar. I remember getting it, and I remember driving home with my arm out the window, a treat because it hurt.

    Nowadays lots of people are opting out of vaccines for their kids. So now other diseases that were nearly eradicated are coming back because some parents are idiots. It makes me want to scream.

    Reply

  48. I like when I see people with the scar. Let’s me know we are around the same age. Mine is also dime size. Although I do not remember ever getting it.

    I dont know if it is a US wide law, but here, my kids had to have the Tdap shot in order to return to school this year.

    Reply

  49. I got that scar on my back, behind my left shoulder. I thought it was from fighting Voldemort, but nope, smallpox vaccine. I don’t remember much about it.

    Reply

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