Proud of my vaccine scar
I Am A Mom, I Am An Expat, My Expat Life, Thoughts On Parenting

Why I’m Proud of My Vaccination Scar

Proud of my vaccine scar

In the book “Outlander”, Claire, a British woman from the 1940-ies, finds herself in Scotland of the 18 century, recognizes fellow time traveller Geillis Duncan by the smallpox vaccination scar on the other woman’s shoulder.

I must admit I would have been just as easily recognizable because I happen to have just such a scar. It’s not for smallpox (which was considered eradicated in 1980), but tuberculosis. I was vaccinated as an infant and then again at school. Everyone was. A school nurse came by every now and then and did the yearly check-ups and vaccinations. For tuberculosis, they did some kind of test on the inside of the elbow and if someone had a reaction, they were vaccinated.

After the vaccine, many kids had pain in their shoulders and arms (and I remember the shot as being rather painful) and you were not supposed to hit someone who was just vaccinated. Not that you were supposed to hit at all, but “Hey, not my vaccination scar!” was a cult saying of these times.

My father recently told me that he is a little bit sad that vaccines don’t leave scars these days. I would have disagreed. I have three little scars on my left shoulder. They’re not big and you can barely see them. But I still wasn’t comfortable wearing tank tops or anything showing off my shoulders. And besides, I really like my whole arms covered, I enjoy feeling the sleeves on my skin. And when I moved abroad, I found that such scars were very rare. My husband, who is German and three years my senior, doesn’t have one for instance. His shoulders are both soft and smooth, while my left shoulder carries this…thing. I never liked my scar. I thought it was ugly, and mostly I just ignored it but never considered it beautiful or meaningful.

In fact, if I had a choice between a vaccine that didn’t leave a scar and one that did, I’d choose the former, obviously.

These days, having a vaccination scar is the exception rather than the rule. I just spoke to my friends from all over the world and they rarely have a scar if they were born in First World Countries and they’re around my age. I wasn’t even aware of it because I’ve always had one and so considered it normal. As it turns out, it wasn’t.

All this didn’t help me feel any less conscious about these scars. I was glad that my children wouldn’t have them, because all of them got their jabs in their tights, and the tuberculosis vaccine is no longer repeated. I am also very relieved because the vaccinations my kids get are so much better and safer for them than the one I received, yes even if children these days get the shots against 6 or more diseases in one go.

But something about recent happenings made me change my mind about my scars. In January this year, there was a measles outbreak at Disneyland which resulted in 102 sick people, many of them kids, and all thanks to one unvaccinated woman. Unfortunately to us all, anti-vaxers are doing a rather good job of spreading their information all over the Internet (I am even tempted to compare that to spreading of vaccine preventable diseases).  I had never heard of people not vaccinating because it was so rare. Now I personally know people who don’t think that vaccination rescues lives or at least who are unsure of the efficacy of vaccines. Someone in an FB group I belong to even suggested making a subgroup for parents who don’t want to vaccinate their kids, so I decided that I need to say something. I need to take a stand- and I only have to look at my left shoulder to understand what it is. I am shocked that there are people who don’t vaccinate their kids because they believe in some crazy conspiracy theories, or don’t understand the science behind immunisations. It is sad to see that after we as much as eradicated small pox and many other diseases, some of them, like measles are coming back, due to parents’ lack of information or some absolutely irrational fears that are not at all based in reality and thus completely unfounded.

So while I still don’t consider my vaccination scars beautiful or gorgeous or pretty, I now begin to appreciate them and all the things that they stand for. They remind me what side I am on and join Roald Dahl in his plea to parents to vaccinate their kids.

I’m grateful for the fact that I’m still alive and haven’t died of any of the illness we vaccinate against. Nor have I been disfigured because of them, and that we managed to almost eradicate many these diseases.

For the fact that vaccines are safe, can save lives and protect people who cannot be immunized.

And now I look at my vaccination scars and don’t think they’re ugly or useless. Besides, these things are so small, you probably won’t see them if you’re not looking at them close-up. I even tried taking a picture of them to show them but these things are almost invisible on a photo.

Instead, I decided to see it as a reminder. That my duty as a parent and member of society is to get my kids vaccinated so that they wouldn’t be sick themselves but also so that they would protect other children, whose  immune systems don’t work the way they should.

My kids will not have the scar on their shoulder and I am glad. But I will tell them why we’re all going to the doctor to be immunized, even if it hurts and they feel cranky afterwards sometimes. Because a little crankiness is a much better than a hard- and sometimes deadly disease.

The fact is: there is no reason, none whatsoever, to skip immunizations entirely or even to spread them out or delay them. There is a reason why the schedule is the way it is. It may vary from country to country, but wherever you are, please bring your child in to get vaccinated.

Vaccinations are one of humanity’s greatest accomplishments and I’m glad I have a scar to remember this.

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  • Reply Phoebe @ Lou Messugo March 16, 2015 at 10:32 am

    Well said Olga! It’s really important to spread the pro-vaccination message to counteract all those idiots who think they know better. I’ve shared this post.
    Phoebe @ Lou Messugo recently posted…Silent Sunday – 15 March 2015My Profile

  • Reply Clara March 16, 2015 at 12:50 pm

    Totally agree! I’m proud of the scars on my arm (I have a few – I think it’s BCG which is the biggest scar, which my children also now have) – and like you I was gob-smacked when I first heard people questioning the need to vaccinate. Having lived in countries where vaccinations really can be the difference between life or death, I always have to walk away from those discussions.
    Clara recently posted…Being a Woman and a Trailing Spouse: In Honour of the Male Expat Partners.My Profile

  • Reply brooke March 30, 2015 at 12:22 am

    one of my closest friends is from india and she said that until 5 years of age, they will stop you at traffic stops and make sure that your children have their polio medicine. she said that they put a mark on your hand that is relatively permanent that shows you already received the medicine. my friend said that they have seen too many people with polio and she just doesn’t understand why people don’t want to vaccinate their children around the world.

    her daughter, however, was very happy when she turned 6—because she did say that the medicine is just disgusting and you only have to take it until 5 years of age 🙂
    brooke recently posted…Best Belgian Waffles in the World. Not sure Belgium would agree?My Profile

    • Reply Olga Mecking March 30, 2015 at 9:05 am

      Hi Brooke, thanks for commenting. Wow, that’s interesting! I’m not a fan of marking people for anything! I understand why the little girl is so excited about not getting the medicine anymore!

  • Reply Icarus March 31, 2015 at 9:43 pm

    Good post but I’m curious…why not break it up with a picture of your vaccination scar? Unless you are blogger time traveling from 2003 when it wasn’t as easy to add pictures to posts. 😉
    Icarus recently posted…Missing the ActionMy Profile

    • Reply Olga Mecking April 2, 2015 at 9:02 pm

      Hi Icarus, thanks for your comment. I explained in the post, I had the best intentions of adding a picture of my scars but the fact is that they’re barely visible so a photo wouldn’t make any sense.

      • Reply Icarus April 2, 2015 at 9:16 pm

        oh gosh darn, I missed that sentence. Sorry about that.
        Icarus recently posted…Missing the ActionMy Profile

        • Reply Olga Mecking April 9, 2015 at 9:51 am

          Hi Icarus, don’t worry- it can happen to anyone.

  • Reply Darlene April 9, 2015 at 12:35 am

    Thank you so much for writing about this. Vaccinations are so important and we are fortunate not to have -and die from- the diseases that were around in the 50’s and 60’s (and some are still just a plane ride away) I’m old enough to have the smallpox vaccination scar on my upper left arm and don’t mind it at all. I would gladly go and get vaccinated again if necessary. I also remember getting the ‘new’ polio vaccine on the sugar cubes at school. Parents, please vaccinate your children – and yourself!

    • Reply Olga Mecking April 9, 2015 at 9:50 am

      Yes, Darlene! Vaccinations are important!And a little scar on your arm is a small price to pay! And now you don’t even have that! There are no reasons whatsoever not to vaccinate your kids.

    • Reply Barbara April 9, 2016 at 9:24 am

      Darlene. Have you ever been told that the vaccine you got on that sugar cube was probably one of the 98 million that were contaminated with SV40 Simian monkey cancer cells? This was not widely communicated to the public but is a fact.

  • Reply Lisa Lewis, MD March 28, 2016 at 6:54 pm

    Well said! Unfortunately, there is so much false information on the Internet that is scary. And then the personal stories that are heartbreaking but in no way backed by science. 2016 marks my 20th year in practice, and I can with a clear heart and conscience say I have not seen a severe vaccine reaction. Yes, rare side effects can occur. But I haven’t seen them. The risk of a rare side effect is significantly lower than the risk of a life impairing or fatal illness.

    Back to the parents who are scared and getting information from sources that aren’t credible. Usually they are well intentioned, loving parents. I would love more pro-vaccine information like this, a firm, gentle message so these parents can read and feel comfortable that yes, vaccines will help protect the lives of their children. And yes, vaccines will help protect our society from serious illness. And YES, vaccines are one of the biggest reasons for our longevity.

    • Reply Olga Mecking April 4, 2016 at 8:50 am

      You are so right, Lisa! Thanks for bringing this up- so important to mention!

  • Reply Barbara April 9, 2016 at 9:20 am

    I’m sorry, but you need to do a little more fact checking before posting your blog. The fact is, patient zero of the Disbeyland measles “incident”, has never been identified. It is not known if it was a woman and it is not know. If this person was vaccinated nor is it known where they live. There are assumptions, but no facts. Please make the corrections to your blog.

    I would like to know what clinical study has been done to prove the safety of the current vaccine schedule in the US. There are 74 vaccination doses recommended by age 18. There has been no clinical study to show this vaccine schedule is safe. The schedule is based on RECOMMENDATIONS by several groups but there has been no CLINICAL safety study. If I am wrong, please provide the link for me and the public.

    There are plenty of reasons to not vaccinate. Vaccines are known to injure and kill. This is a KNOWN FACT. There is an “acceptable” number of children and adults who will have reaction to the vaccine. A child getting a vaccination had the possibility of getting injured or killed. This is called “child sacrifice” and should have stopped with the ancient Inca’s.

    • Reply Olga Mecking April 12, 2016 at 9:26 am

      Hi Barbara, thank you for stopping by and commenting. As for the patient zero, this article claims it was a young woman: This article, however, claims that patient zero was a missionary, a man, who had visited the Philippines before going to Disneyland. Here are some studies that show that the vaccine schedule is safe. There are several reasons why other countries have different schedules. For example, in the Netherlands, chicken pox is considered something that kids have to go through and therefore a vaccine is not administered. Some other countries don’t vaccinate for certain diseases for financial reasons. And of course in some countries, the risk to get certain diseases is higher and therefore they vaccinate against these diseases, while the risk in other countries is much lower and so a vaccine is not given. As for your argument of the risk of vaccines, it’s not “child sacrifice”, but modern medicine- the weighting of risks of giving the medicine as opposed to the risks of not giving it. It works like that for all cases, not just in vaccines. It is clear that the risks of getting the disease is much higher than vaccinating against them. No one says it has no side effects, but they’re very small compared to the side effects of getting polio, for example- and much more rare as well.

    • Reply JOHN November 22, 2016 at 5:42 pm

      I’m sorry for your kids for having a “mother” that does believe in letting her “love ones” get the medicine that will possibly save their lives one day…….

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