If you think we’ll be talking about this kind of peanut butter shot, think again. Nope, it’s not sweet.

To make sure our nation’s soldiers are well-equipped to accomplish their tasks and missions, we provide them with the necessary arsenals, protective gear, and training. Part of making sure they are prepared is by ensuring that they are healthy— the first two weeks of boot camp are spent doing medical evaluations and receiving different sorts of jabs left and right (literally, as injections are given simultaneously in both arms), one of which is the most dreaded, infamous peanut butter shot.  But that shot doesn’t go in your arm.


What is it?

BICILLIN® L-A. numerousvetswtf / Photo from americasbestpics.com


It is an injection of bicillin, a trading name for benzathine penicillin G. or simply penicillin, a long-acting one. As we may know, Penicillin is used to both prevent and treat bacterial infections such as pneumonia and other respiratory tract infections. This is to prepare our soldiers in extreme and harsh environments that they might be assigned in. Unless you have a penicillin allergy and can prove it, I’m afraid you can’t avoid being peanut buttered. It got the nickname “peanut butter” not because it looks like peanut butter(it’s a clear liquid), but because seems as thick as peanut butter and requires a HUGE needle. So, if you fancy being stabbed by an excruciatingly long needle on your rear cheek, then you’re in for a treat.


Why is it Dreadful?

Staff Sgt. Capricia Turner, a non-commissioned officer in charge of the Camp Atterbury Chapel, grimaces after receiving a flu shot administered by Sgt. Lenell Applewhite, immunization non-commissioned officer, for Camp Atterbury Medical Detachment, Sept. 27, in an effort to prevent the flu virus from infecting soldiers at Camp Atterbury. The senior non-commissioned officers lead by example, being the first to receive the flu vaccination. (Photo by Camp Atterbury Public Affairs, Sgt. William Hill)

Given the thick consistency of the peanut butter shot, it gets absorbed deeply and slowly by the muscles, creating a big, lumpy, red, angry lump on the ass. For the same reason, it’s not like a poke-and-go situation but rather takes forever for the injection to finish. Rumors have it that some army recruits passed out while being injected with one.

Administering the shot required the recruit to drop his skivvies and stand with all his weight on one leg and the injection was given to the buttocks muscle on the weightless side.  You were told not to tense up or it would hurt even more. This would be followed by a searing hot stab like a hornet sting and a hot burning sensation.  As you fight off the reflex to tense every muscle in your body(Good luck with that). The initial pain subsided pretty quickly and was replaced with a constant, nagging soreness the lingered for days.  Sitting down hurt like hell and you would see everyone leaning to the left in the mess halls or in classrooms trying to stay off their sore butt cheek.

When the torture of being injected with the peanut butter shot is done, the misery is not quite done yet; you won’t be able to sit right for a few days, and since you’re in the boot camp, you will still be moving around, exercising and doing all sorts of intense physical activities. Other side effects of bicillin could be nausea, headaches, vomiting, and blurred vision. More serious ones are shortness of breath, peeling skin at the injection site, and seizures. Rare ones that could be from administering the shot incorrectly are mottled skin, severe blistering, and numbness; they require immediate medical attention.

And since recruits tend to be young men, the horseplay would commence almost immediately. If you tried to play tough like it didn’t hurt, someone would punch or drive their knee into your butt cheek.  If you complained that it hurt, someone would still punch or drive a knee into your butt cheek. It didn’t really matter.

In the boot camps of all services you could almost tell which companies had gotten their shots, the entire formation would march with a limp for several days.

History of Vaccination in the Army

In January 1777, George Washington ordered Dr. William Shippen Jr. to inoculate all of the forces that came through Philadelphia, where there were lots of smallpox cases due to its large population. It was rampant that it severely hindered the United States and the Confederates in combat back then. He wrote, “Necessity not only authorizes but seems to require the measure, for should the disorder infect the Army . . . we should have more to dread from it, than from the Sword of the Enemy.” And so, it became the military’s first compulsory vaccine. It wasn’t fun either, as doctors immunize people by scratching a boil with a knife and inserting the infected blade into their arms or having them inhale it, as per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Peanut Butter Shot was a form of pre-vaccination in the military.  Boot camps had a history of group A Streptococcus outbreaks, otherwise known as Strep-Throat and it can be deadly. Today, the Peanut butter shot has become the stuff of legends.  There are rumors that the shot is no longer administered to enlistees, but they are just rumors.  There are many antibiotics on the market now in pill form that do not require painful intramuscular injections and they do offer alternatives to those with documented(they won’t take your word for it) allergies to penicillin but as of 2019, you would still have to Drop-Trow, assume the position and take a needle the size of the blow-guns they use in Borneo.

Have you received the peanut butter shot? Share your experience!