Vaccinating Your Mexican-Born Children in Mexico

The following post is in response to a question from a young woman from the United States, living in Mexico with her Mexican husband. She wonders if the vaccine that causes a scar on the child’s arm is mandatory.   

Children in Mexico have immunization scars on their arms that look like the ones the boomers have. When I would get together with other moms and toddlers, some of their children would have the recently-made red welt on their arms.  In contrast, our son was born in Mexico, has a full regimen of shots and does NOT have that scar — ultimately not for cosmetic reasons, but for immunity and health reasons.

I don’t know much about vaccines, but I know that they can be made from live, killed, or modified versions of the disease causing agent. Since I had already grown to deeply distrust IMSS and the national medical system in Mexico due to some bad experiences, I found a private pediatrician in our town that was well-thought of and famous for not giving lots of prescriptions and medicines, especially antibiotics, which tend to be frighteningly overused in Mexico.

You see, seeing that scar on childrens’ arms had gotten me to thinking.  My parents had that scar, but I didn’t. I wondered if it was because we no longer vaccinated for that in the US. I could imagine three different reasons for discontinuing a particular vaccine. Reason number one might have been that whichever disease it protected against was so uncommon it was considered “eradicated.”  Reason number two might have been that a new vaccine had been developed. Reason number three might have been that the vaccine was later determined to cause more risk than benefit. The pediatrician I found helped us to make informed decisions about which vaccines were right for our son.

It has been a couple of years since we did our son’s vaccination series and I am not a doctor, nor a medical professional, so double check all of this info for yourself.  If memory serves, that scar is caused by the tuberculosis vaccine. Our doctor told us that the vaccine does not produce immunity and is only useful to help protect people in high risk situations, such as children who live with a family member who has active tuberculosis. Since no one in our family had tuberculosis, we did not give him that vaccine. Our doctor said that having it can even cause a false positive test for the disease.  Another vaccine I was worried about was the polio vaccine. I don’t remember as many details about that one, but by conversing with this doctor I felt safe giving the vaccine we gave.  Not that everything from the US is better, but this doctor administered the same vaccines that are given in the US. This had the added advantage for us, that if we were to return to the US (where no one seems to know one thing about Mexico), the schools would be satisfied with the shots our son had had.

The shots were expensive — hundreds of U.S. dollars, but I never regretted a single cent. An unplanned benefit of taking our son to this pediatrician when he was healthy was that, when our son was ill, we could call our pediatrician at any time day or night and he would help us without making us bring our son in.  This doctor, like many in Mexico, still serves the parents directly and the relationship with the doctor has been soothing to our nerves. Imagine the difference between heading out to the emergency room at 2:00 am with a baby who is throwing up bile and calling the pediatrician who knows him, getting told over the phone what to buy at the 24 hour pharmacy, and giving it to the child 30 minutes later. Of course, this same sleepy pediatrician didn’t just give us a medicine’s name over the phone and hang up. We talked about the symptoms, then he told us warning signs that might indicate more sever problems, and he followed up.

I was also impressed by his use of lab tests, rather than simple symptoms. One time, this saved our son from being unnecessarily medicated. One time I saw blood in his stool. A friend’s baby had just been diagnosed with amoebas (from blood in his stool) and was taking harsh medicine for it. My doctor ordered lab tests of the stool sample and it turned out to be an extremely acidic stomach. The doctor quickly figured out that I’d recently added Oreos back into my diet! Since I was nursing, the Oreos were effecting my son. That was a simple, safe fix and my son was spared a regimen of harsh medications.

Another friend’s daughter was always on antibiotics for this and that. In contrast, our son never needed them. Our pediatrician always found ways to help him to heal quickly and naturally. He is a standard M.D., not naturopathic, it’s just that he is very smart about how he does things.

When you live in Mexico, see if you can find a pediatrician in your town with a strong reputation. Even if you are “retired in Mexico” and don’t need a pediatrician, I think these anecdotes can give you some ideas of what to look for for yourselves!



  1. Siobhan Moffitt Dec 10

    Hi! I have a related question. My husband (Mexican), son and I will be moving to Mexico in about a year and a half. My son is 3 1/2 and as yet, unvaccinated. I would like to start the Mexican vaccine schedule before we leave but I don’t know what vaccines they require. I know they’re alot less than in the US though! Do you know or know of a link that could help me? I would appreciate any help!

  2. Julia Taylor Dec 11


    Congratulations on your upcoming move to Mexico!

    I don’t think they do require less – in fact they require very similar vaccinations. On the IMSS web site you can read about all of their prevention programs for children. Click on “Prevención y control de enfermedades” and a Word document will open up with a very nice description of their program including vaccines.

    Once you get to Mexico and are registered with IMSS (usually through a job or you go sign up yourselves) your son will be able to receive his vaccinations at no cost.

    As you will read in the description, they have their program delineated by the age at which the child should receive the vaccine and your son is well past the ages because they start at birth and administer every few months, depending on the vaccine. I’m not sure how you can “catch up” in a way that will be acceptable to them. A health care professional will have to advise you on the best way to administer vaccines to prevent the different diseases in a child of your son’s age. I’m sure it’s not too big of a deal.

    Before you leave I STRONGLY recommend that you get a letter or descriptive printout (with complete names of the vaccines) and dates they were administered, signed by someone at the clinic where administered. Make sure your child’s complete name as it appears on his ID (if they are different, match the Mexican IDs) is included in the letter. Make sure all the vaccines are included.

    This may seem silly to the staff at the clinic in the US, but in Mexico, it all has to be laid out in writing because they don’t make assumptions based on what you tell them. I have an entire section on doing paperwork in Mexico in my book because it is very different from in the US and Canada. You can get this translated into Spanish when you get to Mexico. This may mean the difference between re-vaccinating your son or having to go to a private doctor who will “take your word for it.”

    Kindest Regards,
    Julia C Taylor

    PS You are going to LOVE the way people treat children in Mexico. They are so inclusive of children and supportive of parents.

  3. Siobhan Moffitt Dec 16

    Thanks you for responding so promptly and with such helpful information!

  4. Julia Taylor Dec 17

    You are most welcome.
    Julia C Taylor

  5. Gail Wood Apr 30

    I’m a boomer baby (now 57) and I have 2 of those big scars on my upper arm. They were from the smallpox vaccinations. I got the first vaccine as a young child and the second one was required when my dad was stationed back to Europe in 1966. Smallpox at that time had not yet been eradicated and a recent smallpox vaccine was required for entry into Germany. My husband (Mexican) also has that big scar on his arm, also from the smallpox vaccine. A global wide vaccination program began in 1950. The last documented case of smallpox was in 1977, in Somalia. Two years later the World Health Organization officially certified that smallpox had been eradicated.

  6. Herve Monchoix Nov 10


    I have been told that in Mexico parents are allowed to administer (i.e. inject ) vaccines to their children. Is that true?
    If it is, how do health authorities know that vaccines have been actually administered?
    Thank you for your answer.

  7. Julia Taylor Nov 10

    Herve, I don’t know the answer to your question. Hopefully another reader will….


Leave a reply

To protect against spam, each post is reviewed. Therefore your comments may not appear immediately. Remember to check back later to see if someone has replied to your comment.