Sunday, October 28, 2012

SIDS and Vaccines

Every so often, a debate comes up on the SIDS boards regarding SIDS and vaccines. Can SIDS be caused by vaccines? Is there a correlation? Why do people think there is a link?

The answers to these questions are tricky and loaded. I'll try to give some information about the issue in an unbiased manner. (By the way, Toby was too young to have any vaccines. I know, without a doubt, that they played no role in his death since he hadn't yet reached the age where he was to have any.)

The highest time of probability for SIDS is between the 2 month and 6 month age, peaking somewhere around 5 months (depending on the source). It is during this time period when most babies go in for a range of vaccinations, including the Diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP) vaccine. Now, this is where things get tricky.

According to the World Heath Organization (WHO), the reason that people believe that DtP causes SIDS is because "a moderate proportion of children who die of SIDS have recently been vaccinated with DTP; on the surface, this seems to point toward a causal connection." However, that's not quite true. If you look at the actual insert for the DtP vaccine, it lists SIDS as an adverse reaction. So it's not just a coincidence that people have connected in their minds-it's something that someone along the way has connected and actually officially recognized the connection. Even the manufacturer of that vaccine recognizes it-it's not just something that paranoid parents have made up. Also, a "moderate proportion" is nothing to sneeze at. Now, the counterargument to that is that the inserts have to list ALL possible side-effects and that SIDS will never, ever really be one but could potentially be a possibility. Still, if it's a possibility, then it can't be poo pooed away, right? The WHO refers to this as a "myth", but if it's just a myth, then why is it listed as an adverse reaction? The number of deaths that have been reported following this vaccination were significant enough to be mentioned.

Here is the link...

The Institute of Medicine reported that "all controlled studies that have compared immunized versus non-immunized children have found either no association . . . or a decreased risk . . . of SIDS among immunized children" and concluded that "the evidence does not indicate a causal relation between [DTP] vaccine and SIDS."

The World Health Organization states that "so few deaths can plausibly be attributed to vaccines that it is hard to assess the risk statistically." However, there is actually a government department that has set aside special funding for parents whose children have been severely injured (as in brain damage) or died due to vaccinations. So far, they have awarded over $900 million to people. So that doesn't sound that insignificant to me. 

I have personally met and know many parents whose infants were immunized less than 48 hours prior to death. Some of them believe that the vaccinations caused their children's deaths, although they were ultimately labeled "SIDS" cases. I don't know what to think. It could be a coincidence. Maybe it's not. 

My personal opinion is that vaccine-related deaths and SIDS are not the same thing. Not at this time, anyway, since we don't know yet what causes SIDS. When we do learn, then we might be able to see the link more clearly. Perhaps the vaccines caused SIDS or perhaps the vaccines caused an adverse reaction that lead to cardiac arrest or stroke and the deaths shouldn't have been labeled SIDS at all. I don't know. 

I do know that if Toby had been immunized less than 48 hours before his death, I would question the vaccines, too. After all, our infants died from something, right?

In the 1980's, my cousin Brian was immunized with the MMR vaccine. Not long afterwards, he slipped into a coma. He remained in that coma for almost 17 years, until he finally passed away. His mother, my cousin Betty, kept him at home in a hospital bed, hooked up to monitors. His diagnosis was an adverse reaction to the MMR. (On a totally unrelated note, Betty was convinced that God was watching over Brian. She had the kids that she babysat convinced of this, too. During a tornado, the kids hid under his hospital bed. Every room in the house was turned upside down of its contents. Brian's room was untouched. When he died, in the hospital, at his exact time of death, all the power in the hospital went out and the generator kicked on. So, who knows...)

Additional literature shows that up-to-date immunizations are actually a risk reducer of SIDS. So, of course, it depends on the statistics that you are looking at. Clearly, vaccines have their place and have all but eradicated diseases that once killed millions.

I am not anti-vaccines. However, since Iris is prone to seizures we are cautious about doing too many at once since a febrile seizure can occur (and has). We try to limit those if possible. 

You can get an "delayed" or "extended" schedule for vaccinations if (like us) you don't want to get them all at once. There are different ways of doing this. You will also need a pediatrician who is willing to get on board with it.  The original schedule is approved by the CDC, American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the American Academy of Family Physicians.It recommends 25 shots in the first 15 months of life. The shots immunize against whooping cough (pertussis), diphtheria, tetanus, mumps, measles, rubella, rotavirus, polio, hepatitis B, and other diseases. The delayed schedule was constructed by Dr. Sears and is not endorsed by the CDC.

At the moment, we can't prove that vaccines cause SIDS. We can prove, however, that not getting vaccinated for certain things can cause death by those diseases. I urge everyone to do your own research, reach your own conclusions, and act accordingly. My conclusion is that the vaccine debate is not one worth having-I respect my friends too much for that. I do, however, encourage everyone to be as well-informed as possible.


Rebecca Patrick-Howard said...

My friend wrote her own discussion on this for the Empty Arms Foundation. It is VERY thought-provoking. Here is here link and the contents:

Immunizations; Addressing the impact on SIDS
by Empty Arms Foundation - For S.I.D.S. Research on Friday, August 26, 2011 at 11:13am •

I have been a Registered Nurse for 8 years and attended post-secondary schooling for 6 years prior to. Among my degree in nursing I also hold a degree in Psychology, so in other words I have been learning about the mind and body for 14 years. My education and profession as well as my personal loss have helped to forge my opinions and drive my understanding of the process behind SIDS.

I feel the need to address the issue of Immunizations and it's relationship with SIDS. This so called diagnosis or really lack there of has a unique relationship with widespread panic and paranoia and I believe is often handled delicately because of it. A balance of knowledge of the biological processes as well as the psychological implications provides me with a subsequent but still limited understanding of the subject.

Before immunizations came about many people lost their babies and children to now preventable diseases. Getting vaccinated from these illnesses has protected children far more then not. In our society we no longer recognize how important they really are because these diseases that were claiming so many lives have been eliminated in the general population with vaccinations, but would reek havoc again if given the opportunity.

Immunizations are not identified as being linked to SIDS at this time. There is no evidence that they play a role in any way, and therefore would be dismissed as to not cause a worse scenario from individuals opting not to get their children vaccinated. After a link to Autism was suggested many children's lives were lost following the decision not to immunize and quickly became a much larger problem.

Rebecca Patrick-Howard said...

SIDS has been around longer then vaccinations and so I completely agree with the information stating that it is not a direct cause. With all that said, I do believe they can play a partial role.

SIDS has a complex structure that we are just starting to understand a bit better. To simplify, research suggests that it has a triple risk model, each part on it's own is not detrimental but combined can result in a fatal event, the perfect storm so to speak. They all need to take place during the critical time period when the brain is developing, usually between 1-12 months (however the risk does not magically end on the day of their first Birthday), with the most critical period being 2-4 months. At the top of the triangle the one thing that needs to be consistent in all cases is the biological abnormality. Without this abnormality the triangle would never be complete, and therefore why we are focused on the research to eliminate it from the structure. The other two parts involve an intrinsic and extrinsic factor. All 3 parts must line up to result in the most tragic of outcomes. Extrinsic risk factors we have heard about, they are pushed because right now it is the only defence we have to break the completion of the triangle, but can't always be eliminated and in and of themselves would not necessarily be a problem without the biological abnormality. We know these as the back to sleep recommendations, removing bumpers, and avoiding over-bundling, and perhaps many we still have yet to recognize, such as a simple nightmare causing an increase in heart-rate. The intrinsic factors are not environmental and not changeable, such as gender, or ethnicity, and I'm sure ones that have yet to be determined, such as a genetic element.

I believe the immune response and vaccinations can come into play within this structure. Findings show that many SIDS infants are fighting a minor cold or infection, not harmful by itself, but perhaps in the susceptible infant with the underlying abnormality, can cause an even further decrease in the recognition of a function which requires regulation. This is why breastfeeding is seen as a risk reduction strategy, it may help to slightly decrease the chance of having that triangle be completed, but of course not a sure thing. Breastfed babies obviously still get sick, and a minor cold in the truly healthy baby is not a concern. When a child gets an immunization it kind of acts as a minor cold in the body, stimulating the immune response and activating antibodies to recognize the danger so if ever to be encountered again it will be easily distinguishable and eliminated. This provides much needed protection and the truly healthy infant, without the top of the triangle, will now be safe from a preventable illness. However with a baby having the other two pieces in place this immune response might bridge the gap.

I want to stress that these are my opinions based on data gathering and interpretation of that data from my medical and psychological background. Once again I state that in and of themselves each area outlined is not problematic, or perhaps unchangeable or like immunizations, are actually beneficial in many ways. We can attempt to do all the recommendations but because of the multifaceted event that SIDS is, the only way to truly stop the tragedy is to remove the main part of the triangle, and that is the underlying biological abnormality that is just now beginning to get some recognition.

Rebecca Patrick-Howard said...

The link to that is at

Wanda said...

I will def. have to read both of these when I sit down later. Lindsey died less than 24 hours later after her 2 month vaccines.

Ashley said...

I think vaccines should be studied in relation to SIDS, autism, allergies, etc more than they have. There just isn't enough in a handful of studies to really get a good look at what modern vaccine schedules impact in a young person. I know the combo vax's offer a convenience to parents and health care employees when dealing with any child (who really LIKES shots, anyway?), but there just isn't enough data out there to satisfy me personally. I had a physio professor who was an actual, practicing doctor in the area tell our class that there are more studies on the safety of balding treatments and hair color than there are for combo vax's. I know Seth was progressing well through milestones and speaking well until his 15-month round of 5 vaccines, given in two shots...4 in 1, and prevnar in another. When he woke up the next day, it was like he'd regressed to 6 months old again. Two weeks later, we got the recall card in the mail. How can they recall something that's already been injected into your baby?
That's my whole reasoning behind advocating for more studies to be done. Both SIDS and autism and even gluten allergies seem to be on the rise. They claim it's from population increases...but it just doesn't feel right.

Rebecca Patrick-Howard said...

We have done our own unofficial survey on some of the sites (like Daily Strength) and it does appear that many of our children had small infections like colds when they passed away-perfectly harmless it would seem yet in quantities large enough that it can't really be ignored. Clearly, immunizations on their own would not cause SIDS (as karla pointed out, SIDS has been around longer than vaccines and it wouldn't explain those of of us whose children hadn't been vaccinated) but in some infants they might cause a "perfect storm" of sorts-be that trigger that we really don't understand yet. I think we are still looking for that "missing link" which would make all of this fit. I, personally, think that it's the low serotonin levels. Before we can make any direst links between SIDS and vaccines, we first have to be sure what SIDS is. I don't think these studies have to be exclusive of one another, though. I think additional research on both might raise more answers than questions.

@Wanda-I do remember you saying that about Lindsey. I would go out on a limb and say that most of the SIDS parents I know lost their babies shortly after being immunized. (You might be my only FB friend, though, who has.) I know that so far no "casual connection" has been found, but no direct explanation for SIDS has been determined, yet, either, so until there is then I don't think we can write immunizations off as having no bearing.

Rebecca Patrick-Howard said...

@Ashley-You say that " I think vaccines should be studied in relation to SIDS, autism, allergies, etc more than they have" but (as far as I know, there have been ZERO studies regarding SIDS and vaccines. It's such a controversial topic that it's almost always met with a defensiveness, which is kind of odd. The medical community will be quick to say "put the babies on their backs" because it can "reduce" the risk of SIDS, yet mention immunizations and they're poo pooed away, despite the fact that the DtaP insert mentions it as an "adverse reaction" due to the "moderate" amount of instances of SIDS that have followed this vaccine.

Ashley said...

There's been none on a link between SIDS and vax schedules, I apologize for not making that distinction. There's only been a handful on the autism theory, and the most lengthy one was "fraudulent" data, while the other few were very short, showed just a few points of data, and was ambiguous at best...but it concluded that there was no link. There's a couple in the works now for gluten allergies and certain vax's but the two before them were inconclusive. If I weren't on my phone, I would gladly link what little I have found. But you're absolutely right about the SIDS correlation...why would death of an infant be included as a rare, serious side effect of certain vax's, yet there is no data to make such a claim...or even a claim that there is NOT a link? Hmmm.

Rebecca Patrick-Howard said...

I don't claim to know much about the autism links. With so much misinformation and such out there about SIDS, my plate is kind of full.

Jayden's Mommy said...

As always Rebecca your information is not just from one point of view easy to follow and understand. Most articles are from one point of view and its hard. Jayden's vaccines were schedule a week after he left us. Of course my pediatric said if he would have just had them I probably will be questioning the vaccines. There has to be something out there. My case its been review and review because there is absolutely nothing they could blame it on. My pediatric group is been around for 25 years and they said it the most rare case they ever seen. I was ask so many times; did you ever smoke? Was he low birth weight? My labor and delivery of 1 hour and 21 minutes, was not consider to have any complications. Our room was set to a temperature of 70 degrees, he was not overdress, not sick at all. He was breastfed. The only thing he did not want a pacifier. Not that he fuss much anyway. I really hope one day all get an answer, its silly but I worry everyday for my 2 and my 3 and half. Am I going to go in their room and they will not be breathing? Is a question that doesnt ever gets erased from my head. Thank yOu again for the info and Iris and Sam are looking so adorable in the pictures.

Rebecca Patrick-Howard said...

I think that vaccines playing some role in SIDS deaths shouldn't be completely ruled out. They might not be THE cause, but they could present a very big piece of the puzzle. When all of these little things are put together, we might get closer to an answer.

When I was doing this research, I came across a doctor who said, "I've never encountered a SIDS case in which the mother breastfed, placed the infant on its back to sleep, and had good prenatal care." That made me so mad. I wanted to write her back and be like, "Well, let me introduce you to my friends..." Some of the most uninformed are those in healthcare and that makes me sad.

I believe the not knowing part has to be one of the worst things. SIDS is not a real cause of death. It's a "we don't know what your child died so we're just going to through this label on it" cause of death. So we have no idea if it can happen again to our other children or not. You're NOT crazy for being worried about your other kids. For a year after Toby died, Sam slept in the bed with us and we checked on him every few minutes. He was 3-4. I still go in and check on him and make sure he's breathing and more than once have roused him because I couldn't tell.

Thanks for the comment on the kids. It's rare, on this blog anyway, that my living kids are acknolwedged so I appreciate that. They're awesome little people. They make my world go around. :-)

CuteLilKitKat said...

Please sign this petition, these pages on Facebook are directly hurting every SIDS parent that happens to find them and it is insane that Facebook refuses to do anything!

Thanks so much for your time! <3