Has the United States’ Infant Mortality Rate Ranking Been Dropping as We Vaccinate More Kids?

Of all of the myths about vaccines that confuse and scare some parents, those about infant mortality rates can be especially hard to easily put aside.

After all, why doesn’t the United States rank better for infant mortality rates since most parents do vaccinate and protect their kids?

Vaccines and Infant Mortality Rates

That’s actually fairly easy to answer.

“Globally, the infant mortality rate has decreased from an estimated rate of 64.8 deaths per 1000 live births in 1990 to 30.5 deaths per 1000 live births in 2016.”

WHO on Infant Mortality Situation and Trends

Vaccine-preventable diseases don’t have much effect on infant mortality rates in the United States these days.

What does?

  • birth defects
  • premature births
  • SIDS
  • maternal complications of pregnancy
  • injuries

Think about it… If vaccines did increase infant mortality rates, then why would infant mortality rates be dropping as we vaccinate more kids?

Has the United States’ Infant Mortality Rate Ranking Been Dropping as We Vaccinate More Kids?

The Wisconsin Coalition for Informed Vaccination is pushing myths about SIDS and vaccines.
The Wisconsin Coalition for Informed Vaccination is pushing myths about infant mortality rates and vaccines.

Do you know what has been dropping?

The infant mortality rate.

In fact, infant mortality rates continue to drop and are now at their lowest levels ever.

While it is good news that the rate is dropping, most folks think they can be better.

For one thing, some states, like Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, and West Virginia, etc., have much higher infant mortality rates than others. Why? Much of those differences, can be explained by socio-economic factors. That’s also though to explain much of the differences in infant mortality rates between the U.S. and other developed countries, most of which have universal health care.

New Jersey, although they have ranked high for autism rates, has lower than average rates of infant mortality.
New Jersey, although they have ranked high for autism rates, has lower than average rates of infant mortality.

Another big difference is that many countries count infant mortality rates using different criteria than the United States.

For example, it is estimated that at least 40% of the differences between infant mortality rates in the United States and other countries is due to those countries not counting extremely preterm births among their statistics.

But why has the United States’ infant mortality ranking fallen relative to other developed nations?

Most European Countries had much higher infant mortality rates than the US in the 1960s and 70s, which affected relative rankings, even as all countries saw infant mortality rates fall.
OECD data shows that most European Countries have historically had much higher infant mortality rates than the US, which have affected relative rankings, even as all countries have seen infant mortality rates fall.

Although anti-vaccine groups try to tie this to ‘routine vaccination,’ it is easy to see that other countries have historically had much higher infant mortality rates than the United States. As they have caught up, the United States’ ranking has dropped relative to theirs, even though all have seen infant mortality rates drop.

Infant Mortality Rates in the Pre-Vaccine Era

But if you really want to understand the relationship of vaccines to infant mortality rates, you just have to look back to the pre-vaccine era. Back then, now vaccine-preventable diseases did have a big effect on infant mortality rates in the United States and elsewhere.

In 1910, for example, the most common causes of death for infants under 1 year were:

  1. diarrhea and enteritis
  2. premature birth
  3. congenital debility
  4. bronchopneumonia
  5. pneumonia
  6. malformations
  7. bronchitis
  8. convulsions
  9. injuries at birth
  10. whooping cough
  11. tuberculosis
  12. meningitis
  13. measles
  14. accident
  15. diphtheria

Although advances in modern medicine would help decrease the mortality from many of those diseases, it was vaccines that truly worked to make sure they were no longer a big part of our infant mortality statistics.

How will we continue to decrease our infant mortality rates?

Most experts think that it will require better access to health care for all members of society.

What to Know About Infant Mortality Rate Rankings

Infant mortality rates are not linked to vaccines.

More Infant Mortality Rate Rankings

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