Charlotte had the same reaction, except we were totally taken off guard. Because she was born in South Africa, they automatically give the BCG at birth. You can imagine our surprise when 3 months later this happened to our new baby’s arm.
Our pediatrician in Cape Town didn’t even think of telling us what to expect because the BCG vaccine is so common (outside the US). Thanks. That’s the type of thing first-time parents love having to figure out on their own. Dangerous spider bite? Nope, just her shot from a few months ago.
So our girls will forever have these funny little scars on the top of their right arms. But don’t worry, as our South African pediatrician told us, “No harm. They’ll just tan a bit different there.” Umm, have you seen their complexions? There will be no tanning over those scars. And then he casually adds, "Oh- be sure not to pick at it, there's live TB in there."
Interestingly, the US is one of the only countries that doesn’t give the BCG. We rely instead on TB testing. Remember that under-the-skin test for a reaction before you work in food service or other TB-sensitive job? Apparently after you’ve been given the BCG vaccine, you’ll always test positive for TB. We’ll see what happens when the girls try to get their first waitressing jobs.
Vaccines are kind of a funny thing when raising babies in Congo. For a variety of reasons we’ve always imported our own vaccines. And when I say “import” I mean we physically carry them in a cooler on the plane. They stay in our fridge until vaccination time and then Jill (or current TASOK nurse) will come over and give them. It’s a funny system, but it works.
For example, here's what we did last night:
And no vaccine anxiety for us. Chances are the disease we’re immunizing against lives a few blocks down the street. So we always think, “Oh! There’s a vaccine against that? We’ll take two!”