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Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and Vaccines

From 2 to 4 months old, babies begin their primary course of vaccinations. This is also the peak age for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The timing of these two events has led some people to believe they might be related. However, studies have concluded that vaccinations are not a risk factor for SIDS.

With babies receiving multiple doses of vaccines during their first year of life and SIDS being the leading cause of death in babies between one month and one year of age, CDC has led research studies to look for possible linkages. Results from studies below and continued monitoring reassure us about the safety of vaccines.

  • The Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a report on Immunization Safety Review: Vaccination and Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy in 2003. The committee reviewed epidemiologic evidence focusing on SIDS, all sudden unexpected death in infancy, and neonatal death (infant death, whether sudden or not, during the first 4 weeks of life). The committee also looked for possible relationships between SIDS and the individual vaccines diphtheria-tetanus-whole-cell pertussis (DTwP), DTaP, HepB, Hib, and polio; and specific combinations of vaccines. The committee did not find enough evidence to show vaccines cause SIDS.
  • A study using Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) data, which included children who were covered by a managed care organization health plan, found no association between immunization and deaths in young children. The study investigated deaths in children one month to 7 years of age between 1991 and 1995. Data were analyzed by comparing vaccination histories for each vaccine during the week and month prior to the date of death for each child. Five hundred and seventeen deaths occurred between 1991 and 1995, most (59%) during the first year of life. Of these deaths, the results did not show an association between immunizations and childhood deaths.
  • Studies that looked at the age distribution and seasonality of deaths reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). SIDS and VAERS reports following DTP vaccination, and SIDS and VAERS reports following hepatitis B vaccination found no association between SIDS and vaccination.
  • VAERS also monitors the safety of vaccines. Through VAERS the U.S. Food and Drug Administration carefully investigates all deaths following vaccination that are reported to VAERS.

As a result of the American Academy of Pediatrics' 1992 recommendation to place healthy babies on their backs to sleep, and the success of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development's Back to Sleep campaign, fewer SIDS deaths are reported. According to "Targeting SIDS: A Strategic Plan:"

  • Between 1992 and 1998, the proportion of infants placed to sleep on their stomachs declined from about 70 percent to about 17 percent.
  • Between 1992 and 1998, the SIDS rate declined by about 40 percent, from 1.2 per 1,000 live births to 0.72 per 1,000 live births.

These results tell us that most SIDS deaths are due to factors like sleeping on their stomachs, cigarette smoke exposure, and mild respiratory infections.

Additional Scientific Articles

Institute of Medicine. Immunization Safety Review: Vaccinations and Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (March 2003)

Jonville-Béra AP, Autret-Leca E, Barbeillon F, Paris-Llado J; French Reference Centers for SIDS. Sudden unexpected death in infants under three months of age and vaccination status: a case-control study. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology 2001;51(3):271–276.

Niu MT, Salive ME, Ellenberg SS. Neonatal deaths after hepatitis B vaccine. Archives of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine 1999;153:1279–1282.

Silvers LE, Ellenberg SS, Wise RP, Varricchio FE, Mootrey GT, Salive ME. The epidemiology of fatalities reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System 1990–1997. Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety2001;10(4):279–285.

Silvers LE, Varricchio FE, Ellenberg SS, Krueger CL, Wise RP, Salive ME. Pediatric deaths reported after vaccination: the utility of information obtained from parents. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2002;22(3):170–176.

Vennemann MM, Butterfass-Bahloul T, Jorch G, Brinkmann B, Findeisen M, Sauerland C, Bajanowski T, Mitchell EA; GeSID Group. Sudden infant death syndrome: no increased risk after immunisation. Vaccine 2007;25(2):336–340.

 
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