If I remember correctly from my childhood.... The smallpox vaccination is not an injection. Rather, they take the needle with the vaccine on it and make 15 or 20 pricks in the skin. I wound up with a circular scab from the vaccine and eventually, when it healed, it produced a small circular scar, which I still have on my arm.
I don't remember that it was especially painful (and I hated "shots" as a child), but as it healed it caused quite a bit of itching. You were supposed to keep it covered and not scratch it because the vaccine is a live virus, not smallpox but a related virus, and the virus could be spread to others by contact.
I recall no side effects at all in my case, although I know that in rare cases it can.
Hey, I have to say that I think you are getting confused between smallpox and the BCG vaccination, which is for tuberculosis.
When you were at shool, you would have had what is called a heaf test, which is a skin ***** test and leaves a circular mark on your arm. You would be told to go away and come back in a week to have it read. If you had not been in contact with TB, then your skin ***** test would not be raised, as you would have no antibodies in your system that would recognise it. In that case you would then be given the BCG vaccination, which is a live vaccine against TB. The round indentation/mark at the top of your arm is a BCG scar and it is what will be looked for if there is any doubt that you had the vaccination as a child.
What you had was not for smallpox, but for TB and there is no reason why you would have had a smallpox vaccination, as it was erradicated years ago, however, TB is on the increase again unfortunately.
That is why I was asking particularly why the original poster was asking about smallpox vaccination when it is not necessary, unless going to a remote part of the world, where it could possibly be endemic or prevention from terrorist attack.
To murph550: The smallpox vaccination consist of about 15 pricks in the upper arm.
To SciTeach: If you were born and raised in the U.S. then I would say that your childhood memories are correct. My childhood memories of receiving the smallpox vaccination are similar to yours. I remember the scar being quite visible when I was a child and it is still there but I really have to look for it now because it is very faded now. Care of the vaccination site is the same now as it was back then and it is a live virus - the cowpox virus. The inoculation site may shed the virus for 3 weeks which is part of the reason why many health care workers are rethinking their decision to volunteer to receive the vaccination. Healthcare workers who receive the vaccine may be putting many of their patients at risk, particularly the immunocompromised. Many issues need to be addressed such as liability issues and compensation for healthcare workers who perhaps should not provide direct patient care (perhaps be off work)for 3 weeks after vaccination in order to protect patients from exposure to the live virus.
To Sarah68: After reading your reponses, I became curious and did a little research since much of what you said did not agree with my childhood memories nor those of SciTeach. What you said seems consistent with how things are in the UK. I never heard of the heaf test but I did a google search and apparently that is still done in the UK and BCG vaccinations are still given. I knew BCG vaccines were given in some countries but I didn't know the UK was one of them and didn't have much reason to think about it until now. The heaf test sounds similar to the Tuberculin tine test (which uses a multi-pronged instrument) except the latter is read after 48-72 hours and is not considered as accurate as the Mantoux test (another TB skin test that is also read after 48-72 hours).
In 1972 the U.S. discontinued routine smallpox vaccinations when it was decided that the risk posed by the vaccine far outweighed the risk of contracting smallpox. 1977 was the last year that smallpox was considered endemic anywhere in the world. The U.S. never adopted the policy of routine BCG vaccination as some countries have.
I knew I got a smallpox vaccination as a child in my left upper arm and all TB skin tests I have ever had were in my right forearm.
I do believe that my TB tests WERE in the forearm, I had forgotten that. And you are correct about smallpox having been erradicated in the early '70's. Unfortunately, I was born in 1949, so I had to get the vaccination.
My memory of the vaccine really played tricks with me. I would have sworn it was given in my upper left arm. When all the news started about giving the vaccine again, I tried to see if I still had the scar. It wasn't there. Then one day I happened to look on my *right* upper arm, and lo and behold, there it was! :-)
I don't think that'd I'd have it again unless there was an outbreak (terrorist outbreak) in my immediate area. I don't think it is THAT contagious. You have to come in direct contact with someone with the disease and in a certain stage of the disease at that.
You are right. I was born and bread in the UK, where heaf tests and BCG vaccinations are still available now.
I had a heaf test and a BCG at the age of 13 years old at school. We went and had the heaf test on Monday one week and then had to return on Monday a week later to have it read and then we either had it or did not have a BCG vaccination according to whether the heaf test reacted. I was given it.
I don't ever remember having a cowpox vaccination in the UK at all and I think they must have withdrawn it sooner than the States.
Not sure that this is really important, but I had a lecture on poxviruses today, so here are my two cents ...
The vaccine given in the U.S. (vaccinia variola) is not cowpox; it's actually more closely related to a buffalo poxvirus (smallpox, cowpox, and vaccinia are all in the same subfamily of poxviruses). I'm told that this is because Jenner tried to franchise his vaccine (cowpox) and whoever was distributing it in the U.S. back in the day didn't want to pay.
If you're getting vaccinated for the first time, they ***** your upper non-dominant arm three times with a forked (bifurcated) needle that has a droplet of vaccine on it. The ***** barely breaks the skin but does produce a drop of blood and the vaccine enters the skin. If the vaccination is successful, a blister appears within 4-6 days and remains in different stages thru aprox the 21st day at which time the scab falls off and leaves a circular scar aprox the sixe of a dime. If you are being re-vaccinated, they ***** your arm 15 times. If you still have any immunity, you usually experience a small irritation or bump that goes away within a few days.