Related: Paper correlating number of vaccines given with infant mortality rate for many countries?

The same paper in the related article above states (abstract HERE/full text HERE):

Prior to contemporary vaccination programs, ‘Crib death’ was so infrequent that it was not mentioned in infant mortality statistics.** In the United States, national immunization campaigns were initiated in the 1960s when several new vaccines were introduced and actively recommended. For the first time in history, most US infants were required to receive several doses of DPT, polio, measles, mumps, and rubella vaccines. Shortly thereafter, in 1969, medical certifiers presented a new medical term—sudden infant death syndrome. In 1973, the National Center for Health Statistics added a new cause-of-death category—for SIDS—to the ICD. SIDS is defined as the sudden and unexpected death of an infant which remains unexplained after a thorough investigation. Although there are no specific symptoms associated with SIDS, an autopsy often reveals congestion and edema of the lungs and inflammatory changes in the respiratory system. By 1980, SIDS had become the leading cause of postneonatal mortality (deaths of infants from 28 days to one year old) in the United States.

Is this true? Basically, it seems to say that we went through a progression from:

  • Few vaccines and extremely few cases of SIDS/"crib death"... to
  • Increased vaccine rates... to
  • Within 10 years of the rate increase, enough cases of "crib death" to create a standardized name/description for it in the medical field... to
  • Having SIDS as the highest named cause for deaths over 28 days of age -- with this transition occurring within 20 years of increased vaccination rates

Is this accurate? Were these sorts of deaths "unheard of" before contemporary vaccine schedules (pre 1960s)? Was there an upheaval of "crib deaths" timed with an increase in vaccinations, such that it led to a standardized name/description from health agencies? Are there any alternative views to what led to the increase?

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    @Randolf: In my experience, doctors, like programmers, have bandwagons in their schools. We had a pediatrician who would preface comments with "We are taught ..., but ...". Certainly "authority" should be listened to, but it never hurts to be skeptical, especially when the risk is yours. Jun 29, 2011 at 17:27
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    This article smells of correlation/causation interpretation of results.
    – Craig
    Jun 30, 2011 at 3:01
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    It's also notable that SIDS basically only happen to children under 1 year old, while most of these vaccine doses the paper mention are given to children over 1 year old. Jun 30, 2011 at 3:05
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    Does the article actually claim anywhere that crib death incidence rose after the introduction of vaccines? The way I read it, it’s simply that the rate remained constant but since other deaths went down drastically the statistics are skewed in favour of non-disease related deaths. SIDS has become the leading cause of infant death simply because other causes have been systematically eliminated. Jun 30, 2011 at 10:34
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    I thought the same thing: if you eliminate the leading cause of death, something else will be the leading cause, by definition.
    – horatio
    Jun 30, 2011 at 14:01

1 Answer 1


First of all, the rise in any particular cause of death requires that this cause of death is generally accepted as a cause of death by those who write the death certificates. Most of the rise in SIDS that came as you notice in the wake of vaccinations, come because terms like crib death and SIDS didn't exist before, and became gradually more accepted during this time. Causes of death are subject to trends and fashions too. (ref)

So why does this arise after vaccines? Well, the rise of crib death does not come from a rise in babies suddenly dying for unknown causes, it comes from a decline in babies dying. Child mortality had declined from 400 in 1000 to 3-8 in 1000 in the rich countries since 1800.

Yes, 200 years ago, 2 of every 5 kids would die before they reached 5 years of age. That children died was so normal that nobody outside the immediate family would really take much notice. And the amount of reasons were so many and so badly understood that nobody would be surprised that a child died for no apparent reason. And much of this decline came about because of vaccines! Still in the 50's 30 out of every 1000 children would die before 5 in the USA, four times as many as now.

The result is that now, thanks to better hygiene and general vaccinations it is now very unusual when babies die. And parents nowadays want to know why their baby died. 200 years ago, there was no why. It was gods decision. He picked 2 out of 5, and that was that. But now both parents and doctors get frustrated when they can't find out why, because that means that can't prevent it in the future. So since the 50's when there is no obvious cause, you start noting that there is no obvious cause, and hence you get a rise in unexplained SIDS / cot death /crib death, up until it's general acceptance of the condition in the 1970's. Since the mid 80's the rate has been sinking, as the problems causing this are getting better understood, and recommendations to not smoke and put the baby on it's back has taken hold. That sinking rate could not have happened if vaccines was the problem.

SIDS death rates since 1980

So it is related to vaccines, but in the completely opposite way from how the conspiracy people think it is. :-)

More references: http://www.human.cornell.edu/hd/circ/publications/upload/HE-CIRC-pb-LipsittPDF.pdf

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    This answer could really use references in the second part. While I quite agree that the argument you are presenting is correct, you are basically not backing it up with any evidence that it is true or that is a generally accepted explanation among practitioners.
    – Sklivvz
    Jun 30, 2011 at 7:06
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    @Sklivvz: This is one of these things that is hard to find reliable references for, because it's too obvious to publish a paper on. :-) Jun 30, 2011 at 7:53
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    @Lennart Rogebro: fantastic. The money graph for me was the decline of SIDS since it was identified... exactly the opposite (as you said) of what these sites try to say. You might even want to include that graph as a picture. Great answer!
    – Hendy
    Jul 13, 2011 at 18:49
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    One doctor that makes a mistake in assigning a probably cause in a childs death does not a conspiracy make. Jun 24, 2015 at 14:18
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    Please use Skeptics Chat for debating opinions on vaccines, this is not the place.
    – Sklivvz
    Jul 8, 2015 at 19:36

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