Big shot

Yesterday, I had to take a tuberculosis skin test for work. A truly foreign concept for Brits, who receive a Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (better known as a BCG) vaccine in childhood and then are done with it.

Now most Americans have no idea that a vaccine exists for tuberculosis. I know I didn’t. I thought it was a joke when I studied in Scotland and found that everyone had this weird pox scar on their upper arm, a scar left over from the vaccine. Apparently the shot hurts like hell when you get it. I mean, pox-scarring, hold-on-don’t-pass-out pain. But it means immunity for life. Well, almost.

Apparently, the efficacy of the shot actually depends on your geography. Whaaaa? Yes, apparently UK trials have shown a 60-80% protective rate, but the closer you get to the equator, the less effective the shot. And there are scientific reasons for that, but I won’t bore you.

What I will say is that it does sort of explain why American doctors, who are typically vaccine-crazy, don’t give out the BCG vaccine. Only these TB skin tests, which can be given on a regular basis to check for exposure to TB.

We have dodged the big needle, my friends. Sometimes, being American has its privileges.


Posted on 11, October 2011, in Health and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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