By Brian W. Donnelly, M.D., I.B.C.L.C., Pediatric Alliance — North Hills Division




Scientists at the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin have looked at the data, and have noticed a relationship between vaccination trends and rates of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Over the past 40 years, immunization rates in the United States have fluctuated as a function of societal trends. That shouldn’t be a surprise. But the researchers discovered that the SIDS rate was inversely proportional to the overall vaccination coverage for diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (whooping cough). In other words, higher immunization coverage meant lower rates of SIDS.

The same relationship between vaccination rates against pertussis and SIDS rates was found in Germany as well. The pertussis vaccine had been dropped from the routine schedule of infant immunizations in the 1980’s. When it was re-introduced in 1991, SIDS rates began to decline.

SIDS, defined as the sudden, unexplained death of a child less than 12 months old, is multifactorial. It is theorized that there are genetic, neurologic, cardiac, and environmental causes. This study focuses on the potential infectious triggers. Is being protected against pertussis the main issue? Or does the vaccine, or vaccine combination, simply prime the infant’s immune system to protect it from other infectious agents?

The other thing to learn from this is that the timing of the vaccine is important. Receiving the vaccines before 6 months old, when SIDS rates are highest, makes the most sense. Waiting until the immune system is more mature can actually be dangerous for the infant.


Read more “Reflections of a Grinder” from Dr. Donnelly here.