Measles leave scars

Time travel: the "secret" of the circular scars

Transmission date: January 31, 2021 7:30 p.m.

Despite Corona: Germany has a vaccination history that still leaves its mark today. Small individual scars alone are reminiscent of one of the largest vaccination campaigns.

by Karl Dahmen

How do you know if someone was born before 1975? It's actually quite simple, because he or she has at least two small circular spots on the upper arm that are differently developed. This is from the two cuts with the lancet that cut the skin to get the vaccine into the bloodstream. A small stigma, an individual scar that made the wearer a witness to one of the greatest vaccination campaigns in medical history: the global fight against smallpox. Whole school classes went to medical workers to take part in the vaccinations.

Marriage only with a vaccination certificate

Vaccination was compulsory for almost 100 years.

For this cruel and deadly disease there was a compulsory vaccination in the German Reich since 1874, which was to apply for 100 years. Because wherever smallpox occurred, people could die by the thousands - there was no cure. So you wanted to prevent, you wanted to vaccinate. In Schleswig-Holstein at the beginning of the 19th century only couples could marry if they presented a vaccination certificate to the pastor. And to travel to Belgium in 1962, you had to show a smallpox vaccination certificate in order to get a ticket. Those who couldn't do that had the opportunity to get vaccinated in a makeshift vaccination station at the border.

Global struggle

The World Health Organization also announced a global fight against smallpox in 1967. In all parts of the world vaccination was carried out. Today smallpox is considered to be as good as extinct. All thanks to the two small cuts on the upper arm, which in Germany until 1975 everyone got from the age of one. Then the compulsory smallpox vaccination was suspended.

Oral vaccination is cute

The vaccine was poured onto sugar cubes.

The fight against smallpox is only one story of vaccination, also in Schleswig-Holstein. Another is eradicating the virus that leads to polio. In the 1960s you saw the posters everywhere in Schleswig-Holstein: "Polio is cruel, oral vaccination is sweet." With a lump of sugar on which the vaccine was dripped, they wanted to conquer a disease that mainly affected children. The disease gave them paralysis that led to death or lifelong suffering.

Shift in consciousness

The campaign was also supported by television. In 1964, the NDR reported on an oral vaccination in which the then Prime Minister of the country, Helmut Lemke, took part with his wife and daughter. With a determined sip you can see the Prime Minister taking the lump of sugar from a small cup. His family followed suit a little more hesitantly. Media support that was necessary because vaccination skepticism was traditionally high in Germany. It was best not to get the diseases in the first place.

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Schleswig-Holstein Magazine | 01/31/2021 | 19:30 o'clock