When vaccination was 'a badge of honor'
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By Victoria Jaggard, SCIENCE executive editor
One of my earliest memories involves noticing a weird mark on both my parents’ upper arms. It’s a small circular scar, no bigger than a dime, that also decorates the limbs of some of my aunts and uncles. Why don’t I have one, too, I wondered, and what does it mean? If you were born before the 1970s, dear reader, you probably know the answer: That scar is a badge of honor conferred by the smallpox vaccine. (Above, getting the vaccine in Paris in 1942.)
Smallpox is frequently cited as the only infectious disease humans have managed to eradicate, with the World Health Organization certifying the achievement in 1980. That’s thanks to