The post where I talk about vaccinations.

No, this is totally not one of those posts where I weigh the pros and cons of childhood vaccinations. Because really, if you don’t know by now, I’m very squarely in the “yay, science and medicine!” camp. No question about it.

Rather, this is the post where I share what I’ve learned about the differences in vaccination schedules between what my kids will be getting in Finland versus what they would have gotten if they were born in the US. Also, how that differs from what I got as a kid born in Taiwan. And then I show you guys pictures of scars. Because who doesn’t like to compare scars?

Right, so I was upgrading and reassembling my first aid kit the other day (which is another post under home organization that I will get to one of these days) and thought to look up vaccination schedules so I could have a little checklist when the time came. I figured the Finnish version wouldn’t be too different from the American one, since I didn’t really needed anything but a tetanus booster before traveling a few years ago. Still. So here’s what I found as recommended by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control:

finland immunizations

It’s got a couple of optional items on there that the Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare explain in more detail on their site. But yeah, looks pretty similar to what the US CDC put up on their site, too:

usa immunizations

Not that much different from what they gave back when I was born in Taiwan, actually, save for two big exceptions, the BCG and smallpox shots. BCG (TB) is still acknowledged on the European chart for certain circumstances and is given as standard at 24 hours old in Taiwan today. It’s still pretty common throughout a lot of Asia, from what I’ve heard.

Anyway, back in school, you could often tell if somebody was born overseas because of the scars they had on their left upper arms. The US had never routinely vaccinated for TB (the BCG shot), so it was pretty obvious when those showed up. The scars can vary widely in size and form, though, from what I’ve seen online. My dad has that gnarly-looking sunburst patterned one, for example. Mine, on the other hand, is pretty unnoticeable — nothing more than a darker indentation with a bit of a rise in the middle, smaller than my pinkie nail.


Slightly above that one is my smallpox vaccine scar, which I like to show because it’s a bit more of a rarity. The US stopped giving them in the early 70s, but Taiwan (and some other Asian countries, I believe) was jabbing people right up into the mid-80s. Since the disease was declared eradicated in the late 70s worldwide, very few people in my age range have this one at all. Occasionally I like to make up stories about getting it for super sekrit military service. Other times I like to point out that recent research has shown that even just one childhood shot provides substantially more protection than the ten years or so they originally figured, making me that much harder to kill should all that panicky talk of an epidemic come true. Mostly, I just think it’s sorta cool.


Yeah, it was really hard to get a shot of this one. Not only because of the awkward angle when you’re trying to photograph your own shoulder, but also because it’s so shallow. It’s easier to find more by touch than sight. It’s flatter with a gentler slope than the BCG, more bean-shaped than round, and lighter in color, too. This is also smaller than my pinkie nail. My brothers, though falling within the same timespan to receive them, completely missed out on both of these little badges of medical curiosity because they were born in Texas.

So yeah, btw, if you’ve heard people saying that these vaccines will leave you disfigured with ginormous scars? Point them my way. It depends on when you got them, where you got them, what strain and your own body’s reactions. It’s hardly a reason to avoid getting a shot if needed, at any rate.

And finally, this one is just for the gross-out factor, since the two above are rather innocuous.


That, my friends, is what still remains from a piece of pencil lead (graphite, not real lead, of course) that got embedded in my knee when I fell down a flight of stairs onto my backpack in high school. Yep, I bounced a few times, then impaled my knee on a sharpened pencil. It was awesome, in a gory sort of way. Show me yours, I dare ya.


  1. heh. I’m one of the kids who had BCG as a baby due to being born in the far east, the test proved negative when we had to have it at school at 14 (mandatory in UK) and then had a scar that only shows up when I get a tan – it’s barely half the size of an M&M. Add tetanus, rubella, (school mandated) and the other host I got as a kid, I would say *what* scars?

    • Yay, you have one of the little ones, too! I was beginning to wonder if I was just hallucinating, since everybody kept showing me these huge PITS in their arms and legs o.O I don’t think anything else (other than the smallpox one) leaves a scar at all. I was just at the clinic and they actually asked today if we wanted to give BCG to our kid — it’s not mandatory since I moved to the States when I was under a year old, but it’s an option. I think it might be a good idea, since we will probably still be visiting the area if we get a chance when he’s older. In Finland, they stopped making them mandatory in 2006, so it’s on a case by case basis now. They also do it in the arm now rather than the leg, though I don’t see what difference that really makes. I didn’t even know about the leg location until a Finn pointed out that was how they did it.

  2. Being in the US I never received a BCG vaccination but I did get the smallpox vaccination, twice actually. We had to have it to go to school so I was 5 years old and got in on my upper left arm (they usually gave it to you in your non dominant arm so most people have them on their left arm. I remember a few girls got their doctor to vaccinate them on their thighs for vanity reasons. I wasn’t that lucky). When I was 11 my family went on a cruise to several countries so I was vaccinated again. My scar is still there and is the size of a nickle. We didn’t get many vaccinations in the 50’s & 60’s. My baby book says I got the smallpox vaccinations and a diphtheria shot. In 1955 we lined up in school to get our Polio shots and then later in 1963 we lined up again to get Polio vaccine that was on a sugar cube. I still have my Polio Pioneer card where it says I got all three doses. I would get the smallpox vaccination again if it were offered. In 1972 it was no longer a routine vaccination here in the US. We’ve stopped using the oral Polio vaccine here and have gone back to the shot version.

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