What is the Round Scar That Some People Have on their Upper Left Arm?

Have you ever seen a weirdly-looking round scar on someone’s upper left arm? If you have, do you know how important it is? The history behind the scar, which has become a special mark of the whole generation of those who lived in the 60s and 70s, is that of cooperation and struggle, but it eventually led to a remarkable event – the elimination of smallpox.

Image Credit: wikimedia.org

History notes

Smallpox used to be a true bane, and every year it claimed lives of thousands. Since ancient times, the disease had been plaguing various regions of the world, until it was first kept at bay at the end of the 18th century, when the first vaccine was introduced. It was only after bifurcated needles and a new type of the vaccine, which was much easier to store and transport, appeared that the fight against the disease became global.

The peak of smallpox vaccination was in the 60s and 70s, when the vaccine was administered to nearly everyone, and even immigrants entering the country were asked to show their upper left arm–the area where the scar is found–to prove that they were not carriers of smallpox.

By 1972, the disease had been eradicated, and it was officially announced that smallpox was no longer a major threat.

Why did vaccination cause a scar to appear?

The vaccination left a scar due to the way the vaccine was administered. Unlike many other vaccines, this one was designed to get right under the skin, not injected in the muscle. That is why the skin was pierced several times, not once, and once the vaccine was there, the virus started multiplying, which caused a papule to appear. After it scabbed over, the healing processes in the skin caused scar tissues to cover the area, and that was how the scar was left.

Those who were born before and during the campaign aimed to eliminate smallpox can be considered contributors to this major achievement in medicine and the human history. The scar such people bear is a sign, if not a memorabilia, that embodies the idea that humans can and should cooperate instead of making war. It was not until many countries united in their attempts to eradicate smallpox that the success was achieved, so bearing the scar in question is not a cosmetic issue – it is a reminder of values.

A similar token of medical care

There is one more type of a scar that can be found on the same skin area, and it is often confused with the one left by the smallpox vaccine.

BCG is a vaccine designed to prevent a person from contracting tuberculosis, and it is administered even nowadays in countries where prevalence of the disease is significant. In the U.S., it s not that common, but if you belong to a younger generation than those who lived during the anti-smallpox campaign, chances are the round scar you have on your arm is left by BCG.

Image Credit: thejdca.org

If you have either of the scars, don’t be ashamed of having one: it is something to appreciate, not to hide, because it is a sign of your parents’ care, global efforts to fight diseases, and the state’s wish to keep tuberculosis under control. After all, it is not that large, and many people even fail to see it when inspecting the skin, so it is not a thing to lose sleep over.

Keep in mind that the BCG vaccine is usually administered in infants, and it does not protect you for the entire life, so check your local vaccination programs to learn what options are available in your region.


Why Does the Smallpox Vaccine Leave a Scar? – Healthline.com


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