“Understanding the Meaning and Origin of the Small Scar on the Upper Left Arm: The Legacy of Smallpox Vaccination”
Before the 1970s, smallpox vaccination was a common practice. This vaccine used a live Vaccinia virus to stimulate an immune response against the dangerous Variola virus responsible for smallpox.
The Scarring Process:
Following vaccination, blisters would form at the vaccination site, crust over, and heal within a few weeks, leaving behind a round scar. The vaccine was administered using a bifurcated needle dipped in Vaccinia solution. The needle would puncture the skin a few times, introducing small amounts of the vaccine and causing blistering, resulting in relatively large scars.
What Happens after Vaccination:
Immediately after vaccination, there would be a small swelling at the vaccination site that would persist for 6-8 hours. The swelling would then disappear, and the site would appear normal. After 6-8 weeks, a swelling resembling a mosquito bite would appear. It would grow into a nodule, break open, discharge fluid, and ultimately form an ulcer. The ulcer would heal by forming a scar, a process taking 2-5 weeks. Sometimes, this cycle of ulceration and healing would repeat 2-3 times.
In the Western world, smallpox was eradicated after the 1970s, and smallpox vaccination became obsolete, except for those traveling to areas with active virus transmission. By the 1980s, Variola virus was completely eliminated from the population, making smallpox vaccination unnecessary.