Skin Care

What is Smallpox Vaccine Scar and Why?

The smallpox vaccine scar exists to remind us of a disease that destroyed lives and people. It serves as a testament that together, we can overcome any obstacle.


What is the smallpox disease?

Smallpox is included in one of the diseases that is eradicated from the world, and it is an infectious disease caused by a virus. The most significant symptom of smallpox is fever and skin rash. It is estimated in the twentieth century, out of 10 people in an area, three people are affected by smallpox, and unfortunately, their bad condition leads to death.

What is the smallpox vaccine?

Scientists were successful in making the best vaccine against smallpox, and it is one of the best effective vaccinations made in medical sciences. In the vaccination, the attenuated virus having almost zero chance of causing the disease is injected into the body. The body makes immunity against these attenuated viruses—a large number of antibodies in the body fight against the healthy virus.

In 1972, it was declared that smallpox was eradicated officially from the United States and stopped the vaccination of smallpox from being a part of regular vaccinations. But the vaccination leaves a scar or distinctive mark of a time long past.

What are the symptoms of smallpox?

Smallpox has symptoms that last for 7-17 days long. But the symptoms occur after the incubation period. Symptoms include:

  • Vomiting.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Severe back pain.
  • Headache.
  • Chills.
  • High fever.

These symptoms usually last for two to three days, but a new symptom in the form of rash appeared on the skin. The rash usually appears on the face, then it moves to the hands, then on the forearms, spreading to all the main parts of the body.

How does the smallpox vaccine work?

The administration of smallpox vaccination is very unique because if you notice the needle of smallpox vaccination, you will find that the needle is bifurcated means having two-prong, which is also considered a reason that this vaccination leaves the scar.

Like a flu shot, routine vaccination has a single needlepoint that easily goes into the skin or muscle. But in the case of smallpox vaccination, you will find that the administration of the vaccine includes multiple punctures in the skin to inject the attenuated virus to the dermis of the skin. The dermis is just below the epidermis, and this epidermis is visible to the human eye.

Studies on vaccination reveal that when this vaccination reaches the dermis layer, the virus will multiply and make a bump that is round and small, termed as papule. This papule transformed into a vesicle and lastly into the blisters. Blisters are fluid-filled and ultimately scab over.

This mechanism of transformation of the papule into the vesicle and ultimately into a blister which is a scab is the main reason behind the scar formation.

Why does smallpox vaccine scar happen?

Here’s why:

  • Healing of scar is a natural process, so the scar formation of smallpox scar is also due to the body’s natural healing process.
  • Skin injury and formation of tissue after the injury left its marks so, in case of smallpox, body make a protective tissue at the area of puncture of skin because the needle of smallpox vaccine is bifurcated, so it causes a big puncture then the body makes a new tissue very quickly but in a smooth and a single direction. So, that area gives a small scar formation that is visible to the human eye.
  • Every person has different healing levels and times due to different inflammatory responses to skin injury. Some people have raised scars that may be prone to forming excess scar tissue called a keloid.
  • Scars formation also depends on age, gender, and race, so doctors can not tell which person can have large scars or small scars.

How to fade the smallpox vaccine scar?

Some easy and effective tips related to fade the scar at an inappropriate time:

  • Research suggests that sunlight is a factor that causes the scar to become more thick and dark. This effect of sunlight increases the ugliness of the scar of the smallpox vaccine. So to prevent the effect of sunlight, the use of sunscreen all the time over the scar has excellent results.
  • Application of Allium Cepa extract, natural oils, or cocoa butter as skin-softening ointments may reduce the ugliness of scar formed by the smallpox vaccination. But research has no proven results in medical science.
  • Some doctors use a technique called dermabrasion that works by removing superficial skin and helps the body heal again in a better environment. This technique helps the scar thinner and smooth that fade off with time easily.
  • Sometimes, removing affected skin and suturing the new skin forms a new scar that is less ugly than the previous one is also a new procedure that helps to fade the scar.
  • Some doctors prefer skin grafting, but that is an expensive procedure, but fading of scar is more appreciated in this procedure.
  • In the case of keloid, the application of silicone bandages on the keloid helps reduce the keloid’s size.
  • Self-care is also a good way that helps to fade off the scar. Effective self-care helps the body heal more accurately and precisely during the healing process.

What complications are there with the smallpox vaccine?

Every vaccine or every medicine almost has some complications, but some natural medicines may also don’t have side effects. Complications are a problem for many people, and that is why most people try to avoid vaccines. But on the other hand, research suggests that the vaccine of smallpox has a 100% efficacy rate, which means that no one is infected with smallpox after vaccination.

Some people feel mild flu-like symptoms like

  • A slight fever
  • Soreness
  • Enlarged lymph nodes

On the other hand, because the vaccine contains an attenuated virus, that virus is also live, so people are instructed to take better care of the injection site.

Some people also experience some complications that are sometimes serious, as follows.

  • Encephalitis after the vaccine means inflammation of the brain.
  • Some people have a large sore ulcer that does not heal. Moreover, this large sore is usually seen in people having weak immune systems.
  • Some people have eczema, and eczema is a disease of the skin in which people feel itching all the time. So eczema vaccinatum is usually seen in some patients.
  • Research suggests that people having a vaccination of smallpox also suffer from allergic reactions.


Smallpox is almost eradicated from the world because of the struggle of many doctors and scientists. The use of vaccination with a high efficacy rate brings the virus to the almost eradicated stage. Campaigns in the middle of the 20th century by different agencies and the government of many countries also helped to bring this disease to the level of eradication.

In the United States, smallpox vaccination is no longer a common practice. In the world, only the health workers or people who are openly exposed to diseases are at risk to infect with the smallpox virus, so it is mandatory for those people to be vaccinated and prevent themselves from the effects of this virus.

Vaccination of smallpox can cause a scar which can fade off my various tips and procedures. The mechanism of scar formation or the cause of scar formation is already known to science.


Dr. Amy Revene M.B.B.S.
Dr. Amy Revene M.B.B.S. graduated from the University of Sharjah. She is currently working as a General Physician at New Hope Medical Center. Amy has a passion for research and offers her expertise and opinions helping people in their quest to lead healthy, happy lives.

    1 Comment

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