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Smallpox Vaccinations in School

Smallpox vaccinationI think I was in the second grade. That would have been 1967/68. A nurse came to school and announced that we were getting smallpox vaccinations. "Now don't worry!" she exhorted us. "I'm just going to prick your skin. It won't hurt at all!"

Turns out she spoke the truth. The little pinpricks she gave us were barely noticed.

Then, AFTER we all were vaccinated, she gave us the rest of the story. The pinpricks would turn into huge, ugly, itchy lesions that would leave a permanent scar. BUT, we were safe from smallpox. And she would show up pictures of unfortunate children who DIDN'T get their vaccinations, covered with horrible scars.

At that point, we accepted the fact that we had made a good decision in accepting the procedure.

In possibly the single most effective vaccination campaign ever, smallpox was declared eradicated in 1980. The routine school vaccinations were discontinued in 1972.

And they left that ubiquitous scar. In fact, just glancing at a person's upper right arm, just below the shoulder, will tell you if he or she is a Baby Boomer. The last recipients of the vaccinations would have been born in 1964/65, making them the last of the breed.

The lesion that developed on my own arm wasn't too bad. But I remember other kids in my class who had really bad ones. Yet it was a rite of passage that we knew was coming, because our older brothers and sisters had to go through the same thing.

After the 2001 terrorist attacks, there was talk of some of the last surviving virus cultures falling into their hands, and a need of re-establishing the vaccination program. Many folks volunteered to get them just to be safe. Thankfully, there doesn't seem to be any evidence that the virus has gotten out of its laboratory confines.

If some sicko did release the virus, we wouldn't be off the hook, you know. Our vaccinations weren't good for life. We would have to relive the pinprick, the swelling, and the itching. But we'd be prepared. After all, we've done this before.

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