Was SIDS Discovered Only After We Began Vaccinating Kids?

There are a lot of myths about SIDS and vaccines.

In the 1970s, many folks tried to say that the DPT caused SIDS. It didn’t.

Rates of most causes of sudden infant death, including SIDS, have dropped since the mid-1990s.
Rates of most causes of sudden infant death, including SIDS, have dropped since the mid-1990s.

Fortunately, because SIDS rates have dropped so much over the years, even as we have added vaccines to the immunization schedule that protect infants against more diseases, it is easy for most parents to see that vaccines are not associated with SIDS.

Well, that isn’t exactly true. Getting vaccinated is actually thought to have a protective against SIDS…

Was SIDS Discovered Only After We Began Vaccinating Kids?

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

What about the idea that infants only started dying of SIDS after more kids started getting vaccinated?

Any truth to that?

Well, let’s start with when the term SIDS was first used, in 1969, when it was mentioned at the Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Causes of Sudden Death in Infants.

So would that make 1960 the year for “the initiation of routine vaccination?”

That would be a surprise to the kids in the 1940s who were already getting DPT, smallpox, tetanus, and typhoid vaccines.

“Sudden unexpected death in infancy, or “crib death,” is probably not a new syndrome, but it is one that has been clearly delineated and brought into sharp focus during the past 10 years. The first international conference on this subject, held in 1963, did much to formulate the salient features and to suggest the major areas open to research.”

Bergman et al on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome: Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Causes of Sudden Death in Infants

So just because SIDS finally got a name and an ICD9 code in 1969,  that doesn’t mean that is when it first appeared.

Dr. Kemkes investigated whether 19th century infant deaths attributed to smothering or overlaying shared the same characteristics as known SIDS cases. She analyzed data from the U.S. Federal Mortality Schedule from the years 1850-1880. She found that, just like SIDS, smothering and overlaying deaths occurred primarily during the second to fourth month of the baby’s life, were more likely in the late winter months and amongst boys, and there were more infant deaths among black babies.
The author concludes: “The study strongly supports the hypothesis that these infant deaths represent empirical evidence of 19th century SIDS mortality.”

Was SIDS the cause of infant deaths even 150 years ago?

To get ahead of anti-vaccine folks, while the smallpox vaccine came out in 1798, a similar case can be made for accidental smothering deaths in the medieval period and Renaissance – and before.

Infants have likely been dying of SIDS for ages – it just wasn’t called SIDS and was blamed on other things.

“During the night this woman’s son died because she lay on him.”

1 Kings 3:19

In fact, many people even think that “SIDS” is mentioned in the Bible and was described by the ancient Egyptians and early Greeks.

And again, if vaccines somehow cause SIDS, why have rates of SIDS dropped so much as more and more kids get vaccinated and protected?

What to Know About the History of Vaccines and SIDS

The establishment of SIDS as a medical term in 1969 has nothing to do with vaccines or the immunization schedule.

More on the History of Vaccines and SIDS

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