Repeated smallpox vaccinations to an elementary school child

In first grade, elementary school children formed lines to get mandatory smallpox vaccinations. The presence of scars was checked every following year. The scar was a useful indicator the shot was successful and had “taken.”

The smallpox vaccine was introduced by Edward Jenner in 1796, according to the World Health Organization.

In a Clinical Medicine & Research article, the “Smallpox vaccine was administered by puncturing the skin multiple times with a bifurcated needle containing a small quantity of vaccine. A small papule develops after 3 to 5 days…followed by scab formation with development of a residual scar.”

When checking for scars in the second grade, it was discovered I had no scar and was sent to obtain re-vaccination. I experienced some anticipation anxiety since orientation and some initial assignments were missed. I recall some teachers were impatient with us “late-comers.” My mother said I sometimes cried during the first few weeks.

Some in my grade had large scars, while others small ones and only a few had no scars. I felt “different” and was the subject of some teasing. These shots were repeatedly given to me every year thereafter through the fifth grade.

In the sixth grade, my mother expressed her reservations to school administration about the long-term effect of accumulated vaccinations. Consequently, staff advised that I get a double-dose vaccination through a private physician which we could not afford. When the first double dose did not produce a scar, I was required to obtain a second double dose two weeks later, with similar results occurring. I was very concerned about the effect of this ordeal upon my mother. We had no health insurance and Medicaid health insurance was non-existent. The physician for months pressured my family for the bill until he found other funds.

At the school’s request, my mother obtained a statement from the physician stating I was “immune.” Moreover, this became my permanent school record, eliminating the need for further vaccinations. I recall feeling a sigh of relief.

Smallpox was a terrible disease. According to the CDC, on average three out of every 10 people who got it died. People who survived sometimes had scars from the blisters. The blisters were sometimes severe.

According to the American Museum of Natural History:

“One of history’s deadliest diseases, smallpox is estimated to have killed more than 300 million people since 1900 alone. It ranks among the most devastating diseases.”

“Concurrently, there are concerns/threats that the smallpox virus can be used as a biological weapon. Smallpox can be spread through inhaling droplets or saliva. It can also live on bedding or clothing. The symptoms are high fever, body aches and extreme tiredness. Complications can include blindness, pneumonia and kidney damage.”

Mayo Clinic claims that smallpox occasionally can cause serious infections of the heart or brain.

“A massive global vaccination campaign put an end to the disease in 1977.” Thanks to the success of vaccination, the last natural outbreak of smallpox in the United States occurred in 1949.”

Since some of the illegal immigrants may reportedly have smallpox, I am wondering if schools will ever reintroduce smallpox vaccinations? With hindsight, there are some that have stipulated repeated inoculations are unwarranted. If smallpox vaccinations are introduced again, I am hoping that proof of vaccination is sufficient. I would not want a child to undergo what I had to experience.

Sylvia Savage, Greenville

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