Vaccines and Infant Mortality


I recently came across a new study by Neil Miller and Gary Goldman in the Journal of Human & Experimental Toxicology comparing the infant mortality rates (IMRs) and vaccine requirements in developed countries.  The study, titled “Infant mortality rates regressed against number of vaccine doses routinely given: Is there a biochemical or synergistic toxicity?“, compared the number of required vaccines in the United States with the number required in the 33 countries with lower (better) infant mortality rates than the US.  Yes, the “greatest nation on earth” is ranked number 34 for infant mortality, one of the most important indicators of the socio-economic well-being and public health conditions of a country.  Miller and Goldman state that

[d]espite the United States spending more per capita on health care than any other country, 33 nations have better IMRs. Some countries have IMRs that are less than half the US rate: Singapore, Sweden, and Japan are below 2.80. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ‘‘The relative position of the United States in comparison to countries with the lowest infant mortality rates appears to be worsening.’’

In developing nations, The World Health Organization (WHO) attributes 7 out of 10 childhood deaths to five main causes: pneumonia, diarrhea, measles, malaria, and malnutrition.  In developed countries, like those listed above, there are many factors that impact IMRs; in the US, for example, Miller and Goldman cite an increase in premature birth and its related complications.  But there is also a marked difference in the immunization requirements for infants less than 1 year old, which led Miller and Goldman to explore the correlation between vaccine doses that nations routinely give to their infants and their infant mortality rates.

Miller and Goldman analyzed vaccine doses using linear regression and found that

at a certain stage in nations’ movement up the socio-economic scale—after the basic necessities for infant survival (proper nutrition, sanitation, clean water, and access to health care) have been met—a counter-intuitive relationship occurs between the number of vaccines given to infants and infant mortality rates: nations with higher (worse) infant mortality rates give their infants, on average, more vaccine doses.

I find this very troubling.  I was especially concerned by their discussion of a possible correlation between vaccinations and SIDS.

there is some evidence that a subset of infants may be more susceptible to SIDS shortly after being vaccinated. For example, Torch found that two-thirds of babies who had died from SIDS had been vaccinated against DPT (diphtheria–pertussis–tetanus toxoid) prior to death. Of these, 6.5% died within 12 hours of vaccination; 13% within 24 hours; 26% within 3 days; and 37%, 61%, and 70% within 1, 2, and 3 weeks, respectively. Torch also found that unvaccinated babies who died of SIDS did so most often in the fall or winter while vaccinated babies died most often at 2 and 4 months—the same ages when initial doses of DPT were given to infants.

I had previously read a study which concluded that the SIDS mortality ratio after DTP was high, but the period of risk was relatively short.  I was shocked to read here about Torch’s study: that the risks could extend for a month.  (Although does that really matter?  I’d question the benefit of doing something even if the increased risk of death is only in the first 72 hours, especially when it’s a seven times higher risk of death.)  I wonder how many doctors have told the parents of their patients about that study, or will tell them about this one.

It’s hard to argue that vaccines are irrelevant to IMR when “nations that require more vaccine doses tend to have higher infant mortality rates.”  As a parent who is currently delaying vaccines, and planning to only selectively immunize when we do vaccinate, seeing the difference in vaccine requirements by country and those countries’ corresponding IMRs only made me more sure of my decision.  I don’t, by any stretch, think all vaccines are bad and I do plan on insuring that Nora has immunity against key diseases, but I think the US standard of vaccination is overkill, way too much, too soon, and this study is evidence that a “one-size fits all” approach to vaccination may not work.

About the Author


10 responses

  1. Amber Avatar

    As an after thought, would anyone be interested in a post on our specific vaccine choices, what they are and why?

  2. Jenny Avatar

    That study is incredibly flawed. Sure, you can make correlations about anything, but it does not mean there is indeed a cause and effect.

    So, babies that died from SIDS had been vaccinated; for that to be informative, you need to have a control group of an equally large group of infants who were not vaccinated, and they need to be age-matched as well as matched to socio-economic status and everything else. These types of studies are so misleading, and I hope they do not persuade parents to not vaccinate children. Vaccines have done so much to increase healthiness and survival rates and I fail to understand why there are so many people that “don’t believe in them” or are so quick to think the worst. Where is the sound, scientific evidence that they shows them to be dangerous? We have ample evidence that microbial infections are dangerous, and a great tool to prevent some of them. Use it!

  3. Sarah Meyers Avatar
    Sarah Meyers

    I am going to post this everywhere i can. I believe that there is a danger in vaccines, even if that danger is “just” a fever. Babies get fevers to fight things attacking their systems, which is a danger right there, and then parents medicate them to bring the fever down, which means the fever is not doing what it was supposed to be doing, and then you have, not only the foreign vaccine in their body, but also high doses of medication that usually includes food dyes and fake flavorings. And that’s just the fever symptoms. no thank you. I’d rather have my baby build her immune system a little more naturally. I know it’s dangerous, b/c microbial infections are bad, but so if pumping her system with engineered chemicals.

  4. Jenny Avatar

    Lovely. Thanks for contributing to re-emerging outbreaks of whooping cough and polio, to name a few. I would rather have my child have a brief fever or be exposed to a few artificial flavorings than life-long paralysis from polio infection or cancer from HPV, but I suppose we all make our choices. It’s just sad that so many parents are forgetting about the seriousness of many of these diseases that were nearly eradicated. Sure, chicken pox probably isn’t going to do lasting harm to your child, but mumps or polio or HPV and other transforming viruses can, and furthermore, even innocent childhood diseases like rotaviruses can have very serious implications for children and adults who are immunocompromised. As both a parent and a scientist, I have a unique perspective, and I wish I could change minds with evidence and logic, but that seems to be a larger hurdle than I would expect in some cases.

    1. sarah Meyers Avatar
      sarah Meyers

      don’t you have to have sex to get an STD? I don’t see any readon to give my baby the HPV vaccine, b/c as far as I know, she isn’t sexually active yet. and the chicken pox vaccine wears off in ten years….. how do we know that the others don’t “wear off” at some point too? shouldn’t I wait until she’s more at rick of infection (like going to school) instead of pumping her with this stuff when she’s just a few weeks old?

    2. For those who have lost children. It is hard to believe there is no cause.i never questioned vaccines, but now I do. My questions now will not save my son.

      1. I am so sorry for your loss, Mel.

  5. Amber Avatar

    Thanks for the thoughtful responses, Jenny and Sarah.

    Jenny, you’re right that the correlation might not mean anything, but it’s certainly something that should be looked into further, which is what Miller and Goldman proposed. If you haven’t read the full text, it’s worth taking a look at. What’s interesting about this study is that it’s not the case that the authors believe vaccines shouldn’t be given, but rather that the number and type required before one year of age should be re-examined and possibly reduced. (Which is why there’s no mention of the ever-controversial MMR vaccine.)

    As far as the SIDS goes, you’re right that the information we have isn’t sufficient to answer the question of causation — because there aren’t enough unvaccinated babies in the US for a valid study. An interesting thing that I’ve read is that SIDS rates are lower in some of these countries that don’t require as many vaccines, but obviously vaccinations aren’t the only things differentiating these countries from us. The way I see it, not having a reliable study does not mean that the concept is invalid or not worth studying. Obviously, we no longer use DPT in the US and have replaced it with DTaP, so that makes the DTP/SIDS study less relevant here; it is not, though, completely irrelevant: it provides a good example of a drug that may have unknown side effects yet still be prescribed. Not nearly as bad as, but similar to thalidomide or, a better example, the live-virus polio vaccine which was used in the US until the early 2000s and actually caused more cases of polio than were transmitted in “the wild”.

    I think Sarah’s point about timing is a good one, and in line with what Miller and Goldman were after. We are not anti-vaccine, and we do intend to have Nora vaccinated against some things as she gets older. I’ll get into this in a full post shortly, but Hep B is a great example of a vaccine which I don’t think should be routinely given at birth or in the first year. The CDC advocates it as the standard of care in case the mother is a Heb B+ women, who does not know her status and/or has not had prenatal care. Heb B is a disease passed through sexual contact or IV drug use or birth; if no one in the household has the disease, there is little to no chance a baby/young child will be exposed to the virus. Since I’ve been tested and know that Nora was not exposed to it at birth, we elected to wait on giving her that vaccine until she is actually at risk of getting the disease.

  6. Please don’t take this as judgement because I totally understand the benefits of co-sleeping (though I was never really interested in doing so more than occasionally). But did you at all consider the SIDS risk associated with that? There are a lot of studies around that and I was curious for your perpspective…..

    Thanks for this info – we’ve chosen to vaccinate our first daughter, but I wasn’t as well informed as I am now. What vaccines are you planning to give eventually, but delaying?

  7. brandy vaughn Avatar
    brandy vaughn

    I would like to reply to Susan above^^^ Japan and Finland have some of the lowest SIDs rates and they have much higher co-sleeping rates. The US has one of the lowest co-sleeping rates. While there are possibly a few babies who die while co-sleeping due to suffocation, this is not the main cause of SIDs. It’s just something to distract us.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *