Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The vaccination scars

Every person in my family has this particular scar on his or her upper left arm. In fact, a lot of my friends who are immigrants to the US have this scar as well. After 19 years of an aloof curiosity, I was prodded by our impending global health class and smallpox reading to finally do some sleuthing about this ubiquitous mark of the foreign-born.
I was born in Vietnam in 1990. Since smallpox eradication was declared in 1979, the scar I have is probably not from a smallpox vaccination. According to what I’ve gathered, I think it’s from the BCG vaccination for tuberculosis.
Here is what the CDC says about BCG:
“BCG, or bacille Calmette-Guerin, is a vaccine for tuberculosis (TB) disease. Many foreign-born persons have been BCG-vaccinated. BCG is used in many countries with a high prevalence of TB to prevent childhood tuberculous meningitis and miliary disease.”
The difference between the BCG and the smallpox scar is that the BCG scar (top) has a elevated center, whereas the smallpox scar (bottom) is sunken into the skin with lines fanning out towards the edges.

My scar resembles something like this image pulled from the internet:

You all can definitely check out my gnarly scar soon enough!

My mom, who was born in Vietnam in 1956 — before the eradication of smallpox — has two smallpox scars on her left arm. She received both vaccinations when she was six years old. Today, her scar resembles something like this:

-Hai-y Le

No comments:

Post a Comment