The OpEd Project

FullSizeRenderBy Erin Nwachukwu, Lindblom

Before the MMR vaccine debuted in 1963, an estimated 48,000 patients were hospitalized with measles each year, of which 400 to 500 died. But after the implementation of the vaccine, those numbers have almost been obliterated. In fact, there was a point in time when the U.S. government declared the measles virus no longer posed a threat in our country. And yet, with such amazing numbers, some folks have a hard time understanding why I’m not first in line to get my shots.

I get it: Vaccinations have saved many, many lives. In fact, the vaccinations I’ve received could have played a role in keeping me alive so far. But I still don’t trust them. For one thing, vaccines come with side effects. After I got a flu shot, my nose and throat were constantly stuffed up. When I researched this a bit, I discovered that all vaccines come with side effects. The measles vaccine could cause serious allergic reactions, rash and fever. While I’m sure many would rather have a fever than die, risk factors associated with vaccines are something that deserve consideration but rarely come up in conversation.

Many school districts—including CPS—require that students get vaccinated in order to attend. If vaccines are so effective, I wonder why we saw the number of cases spike last year.

Viruses are able to evolve and grow resistant to opposing substances, and last year’s outbreak even forced doctors to recommend a second MMR shot. Parents aren’t given the facts. They aren’t always told why vaccinates are important or how they can affect their kids, only that they should have their children immunized, or else.

Mandating that every kid receives his or her shots isn’t the solution. Like many problems, I think this one could be fought with education. So while the battle between “vaxxers” and “anti-vaxxers” continues, I’ll be over here making Google searches and digging through Mayo Clinic’s website.

Erin Nwachukwu is junior at Lindblom Math and Science Academy and a participant in The OpEd Project’s Youth Narrating Our World program, a Why News Matters partner.

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The Mash is the Chicago Tribune's newspaper and website written for teens, by teens. The paper is distributed for free every other Thursday at Chicago-area high schools and is written largely by high school students.

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