Tag: sudden death

Healthy Kids Can Just Die

No one likes to think about it, but yes, healthy kids can just die.

Tragically, misunderstanding this fact can lead some parents who have lost a child to blame vaccines.

Healthy kids can just die and they are often attacked by anti-vaccine groups who push them to blame vaccines.
The 8 year-old child they are talking about died of SUDEP or Sudden Unexplained Death of Epilepsy.

It certainly doesn’t help that anti-vaccine folks are targeting families who have recently lost a child, pushing them to blame vaccines…

Healthy Kids Can Just Die

Speaking of vaccines, that leads us to one group of healthy kids who can die suddenly – those who die with a vaccine-preventable disease.

All of those kids who die with the flu each year? Many are healthy. And many are unvaccinated.

Infants who die with pertussis.

Teens who die with meningococcemia.

They were all typically healthy – at least they were before they got sick.

And then some of them died.

Of course, vaccine-preventable diseases are not a common way for children to die in developed countries anymore – thanks to vaccines.

Healthy Kids Dying is Not a Vaccine Injury

Again, although no one likes to think about it, healthy kids can just die.

Surprisingly, about 10% of deaths in children over age 12 months are classified as sudden death, including many in healthy kids with no explanations for how they died.

These types of sudden, unexplained deaths are actually the 5th leading cause of death in children between the ages of 1 and 4 years. That adds up to about 400 deaths a year in the United States alone!

Were some of these kids recently vaccinated?

Of course.

Just like some infants who die of SIDS were recently vaccinated.

That doesn’t mean that the vaccines caused the deaths though.

“Dealing with the sudden, unexpected death of a baby to any cause is devastating – but in the case of a death for which no specific cause can be found, the lack of answers about why your baby has died can be overwhelming.”

Surviving the Sudden Death of a Baby

So why do some people blame vaccines?

“The parents’ need to understand why their baby died came across very strongly in most interviews despite parents not being asked specifically about this.”

Garstang et al on Parental understanding and self-blame following sudden infant death: a mixed-methods study of bereaved parents’ and professionals’ experiences

Few people like the idea that there isn’t a known reason for why a child died.

“Our results suggest that most parents really want to know why their baby died; not knowing why their baby died may cause further distress to parents, whether this is due to long waits for the results of postmortem examinations or because deaths remain unexplained. An unexplained death by its nature is an unpredictable event rendering the parents powerless to prevent future tragedies, thus increasing the anxiety and grief; having as much information as possible should help parents to emotionally accept and make sense of the death to themselves.”

Garstang et al on Parental understanding and self-blame following sudden infant death: a mixed-methods study of bereaved parents’ and professionals’ experiences

Saying it was vaccines gives people an answer.

“The aggregated theme, We Feel Like We’re to Blame, was composed of three categories: (a) Not where s/he was supposed to sleep, (b) Naming the cause of death increases my guilt, and (c) It was our fault. Mothers often felt that they were being told that the baby’s death was their fault.”

Stiffler et al on When Baby Stops Breathing: Analysis of Mothers’ Interviews

And in the case of SIDS, especially if the baby was in an unsafe sleeping environment, it is easy to see that blaming vaccines might help those who were made to feel that the death had been their fault, even though bedsharing is widely pushed as a safe alternative to roomsharing in many parenting circles.

It isn’t.

“The mothers talked about how difficult it was trying to move on after an unexpected infant death. They expressed that they are not only dealing with the grief of losing a child, but they are dealing with the feelings of guilt, despair, and regret. In this aggregated theme, there were three categories: (a) I can’t talk about it, (b) One step forward, and (c) Support helps me get through.”

Stiffler et al on When Baby Stops Breathing: Analysis of Mothers’ Interviews

One thing should be clear.

Seeking support in anti-vaccine Facebook groups is not healthy and will not help parents deal with their feelings of guilt, despair, or regret.

Shaming was described from the mothers’ perspective “ . . . it sounds so blaming and makes me feel like they think we killed our baby.” Parents were dealing with the grief of losing children, but they were also exhibiting feelings of guilt and responsibility for the deaths. The mothers did find support and eventually moved forward emotionally. In the end, as one mother succinctly expressed, “I am pregnant now . . . we are happy, but are scared, too.”

Stiffler et al on When Baby Stops Breathing: Analysis of Mothers’ Interviews

These parents instead need support and doctors, nurses, first responders, child protective service workers, and medical examiners that don’t worsen their grief and guilt.

If you need to blame vaccines, then go ahead and do so, but please also get some extra help from the resources below.

And lets work to figure out why these healthy kids are dying, so we can get better at saving them and preventing these deaths.

More on Healthy Kids Can Just Die

How the Anti-Vax Movement Takes Advantage of SIDS and SUDC Families

Unfortunately, we have gotten used to the modern anti-vaccine movement doing some horrible things. What’s one of the very worst? Taking advantage of the parents of children who have recently died of SIDS or SUDC.

We commonly see anti-vaccine folks seek out parents whose children have very recently died to make them think that vaccines were the cause.
We commonly see anti-vaccine folks seek out parents whose children have very recently died to make them think that vaccines were the cause.

Making parents think that their baby died because of vaccines.

How the Anti-Vax Movement Takes Advantage of SIDS and SUDC Families

Although we have seen folks like Larry Cook do this time and again, it isn’t what is best for these families.

“When a child dies unexpectedly, a family may feel a flood of emotions, including guilt, anger and lack of control. The clinician’s role is to offer stable support, information and compassionate care. In order to provide the most appropriate care for families in these situations, it is necessary to understand the complexities of the grief and trauma response and to recognize that the families’ needs will change over time.”

Caring for the SUDC Family: Medical and Bereavement Information for the Clinicians’ Consideration

What do anti-vax folks offer to these grieving families?

“During an open investigation, do not speculate on the cause of death with the family. Although this may feel supportive, it often undermines the relationship with the Medical Examiner/Coroner who is legally charged with determining cause of death and adds stress for the family when clinicians and the investigating authorities disagree. It is optimal that clinicians and Medical Examiners/Coroners communicate directly for the best interests of the family. “

Caring for the SUDC Family: Medical and Bereavement Information for the Clinicians’ Consideration

They offer an answer…

“Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood (SUDC) is a category of death in children between the ages of 1 and 18 that remains unexplained after a thorough investigation, including an autopsy.”

Facts About Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood

Often when answers haven’t been available.

“Dealing with the sudden, unexpected death of a baby to any cause is devastating – but in the case of a death for which no specific cause can be found, the lack of answers about why your baby has died can be overwhelming.”

Surviving the Sudden Death of a Baby

And whether it is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID), or SUDC, invariably, the “answer” that they offer is that they should blame vaccines.

Of course, they shouldn’t.

Vaccines are safe, with few risks.

Vaccines are not associated with SIDS.

Vaccines are not associated with SUID.

Vaccines are not associated with SUDC.

Shame on these folks for making grieving parents think that they are.

These families would get much better help from organizations like the SUDC Foundation and first candle.

More on Caring for SIDS and SUDC Families

Does the CDC Determine Medical Exemptions for Vaccines?

California’s new vaccine law has some folks arguing about medical exemptions again.

Yes, the CDC does not determine medical exemptions for vaccines. That's not news.
Yes, the CDC does not determine medical exemptions for vaccines. That’s not news.

Some want very broad guidelines and are confused about how doctors determine who should get a medical exemption.

Does the CDC Determine Medical Exemptions for Vaccines?

Bob Sears even thinks he has a bombshell revelation that clears everything up.

An email from the CDC!

You can be sure that the "medical provider's prerogative" does not include any reason they think up, even those that have no evidence to back them up.
You can be sure that the “medical provider’s prerogative” does not include any reason they think up, even those that have no evidence to back them up.

The thing is, no one has ever said that ACIP contraindications and precautions to vaccination are the one and only factor that should determine whether or not a child should get a medical exemption.

“If a child has a medical exemption to immunization, a physician licensed to practice medicine in New York State must certify that the immunization is detrimental to the child’s health. The medical exemption should specify which immunization is detrimental to the child’s health, provide information as to why the immunization is contraindicated based on current accepted medical practice, and specify the length of time the immunization is medically contraindicated, if known.”

Dear Colleague letter regarding guidelines for use of immunization exemptions

So no one should really be surprised by an email that says the CDC does not determine medical exemptions.

What Qualifies as a Vaccine Medical Exemption?

What are the other big factors, in addition to ACIP contraindications and precautions?

“A medical exemption is allowed when a child has a medical condition that prevents them from receiving a vaccine.”

What is an Exemption and What Does it Mean?

Medical exemptions for vaccines should be based on AAP and ACIP guidelines, current accepted medical practice, and evidence based medicine.

“Medical exemptions are intended to prevent adverse events in children who are at increased risk of adverse events because of underlying conditions. Many of these underlying conditions also place children at increased risk of complications from infectious diseases. Children with valid medical exemptions need to be protected from exposure to vaccine-preventable diseases by insuring high coverage rates among the rest of the population. Granting medical exemptions for invalid medical contraindications may promote unfounded vaccine safety concerns. Although states may wish to allow parents who make decisions based on poor science or perceptions to withhold vaccines from their children, these exemptions should be distinguished from valid medical exemptions.”

Salmon et al on Keeping the M in Medical Exemptions: Protecting Our Most Vulnerable Children

For example, in addition to kids who may have had a severe allergic reaction to a vaccine, there are often children with immune system problems or who have a moderate or severe illness who can’t get one or more vaccines, at least temporarily.

These are among the common conditions that the AAP says should NOT delay vaccination and which are often mistakenly thought to qualify someone for a medical exemption.
These are among the common conditions that the AAP says should NOT delay vaccination and which are often mistakenly thought to qualify someone for a medical exemption.

Medical exemptions for vaccines should not be based on anecdotes or simply because a vaccine-friendly doctor has scared a parent away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

There are very few family history issues that would make a child have to skip or delay getting a vaccine.
There are very few family history issues that would make a child have to skip or delay getting a vaccine.

They should rarely be done based on family history of reactions or what some people think are vaccine reactions.

This is what a fake medical exemption will get you - a life-threatening disease.
The child’s medical exemption was for “cytotoxic allergies secondary to immunization,” without any evidence that it was necessary. In addition to a fake medical exemption, he got tetanus.

In general, they should rarely be given, as the AAP states in their policy statement, Medical Versus Nonmedical Immunization Exemptions for Child Care and School Attendance, “only a very small proportion of children have medical conditions prohibiting specific immunizations…”

That’s why rates of medical exemptions should be low.

“Between the 2009-2010 and 2016-2017 school years, the national median prevalence of medical exemptions has remained constant, between 0.2% to 0.3%, with state-level ranges showing little heterogeneity over time, never exceeding the range of 0.1% to 1.6% over this period.”

Bednarczyk et al on Current landscape of nonmedical vaccination exemptions in the United States: impact of policy changes

And why you shouldn’t have schools with high rates of medical exemptions or doctors writing a lot of medical exemptions.

More on Vaccine Medical Exemption Guidelines

Why Would Vaccines Be Designed to Kill People?

If you are playing devil’s advocate with anti-vaccine folks, trying to figure out how they think, it isn’t a terrible question.

Remember, many anti-vaccine folks think that vaccines never work and that they always cause injuries – to everyone that gets them.

Why Would Vaccines Be Designed to Kill People?

We can start with Larry Cook‘s “answer,” which was in the form of another question:

“Why do doctors and medical examiners deny vaccine injury and death?”

Larry Cook

Wait, do doctors and medical examiners deny vaccine injury and death?

Uh, no they don’t.

They are often skeptical that each and everything that happens after someone gets a vaccine, even if it is months or years later, is a vaccine injury though. But we do know that although rare, vaccine injuries are real and can sometimes be life-threatening.

But why would vaccines actually be designed to kill people?

Makes sense, right?

  1. Make vaccines that kill people.
  2. ?
  3. Profit.

Actually, it doesn’t make any sense, does it?

Vaccine-preventable diseases kill people. In the pre-vaccine era, they killed a lot more people.

If you want to control the population or make life-long customers, why not just let them get smallpox, measles, chicken pox, hepatitis B, and HPV?

“Results revealed a significant negative relationship between anti-vaccine conspiracy beliefs and vaccination intentions. This effect was mediated by the perceived dangers of vaccines, and feelings of powerlessness, disillusionment and mistrust in authorities.”

Jolley et al on The Effects of Anti-Vaccine Conspiracy Theories on Vaccination Intentions

And if you wanted to do that, you could just push a lot of conspiracy theories about vaccines to scare folks away from getting vaccinated…

So, could bacteria and viruses be controlling the minds of these disease-friendly, influential anti-vaccine folks, helping to make sure people are intentionally unvaccinated, so that they can spread among us more easily?

Since I’m too skeptical to go down that rabbit hole, it is probably a safer bet to think that most are just doing it to sell supplements in their stores, get commissions from pushing online seminars, and ads from folks visiting their sites.

“Conspiracy beliefs are therefore associated with common motivations that drive intergroup conflict. Two social motivations in particular are relevant for conspiracy thinking. The first motivation is to uphold a strong ingroup identity, which increases perceivers’ sense‐making motivation when they believe their group is under threat by outside forces. That is, people worry about possible conspiracies only when they feel strongly connected with, and hence care about, the prospective victims of these conspiracies. The second social motivation is to protect against a coalition or outgroup suspected to be hostile”

van Prooijen et al on Belief in conspiracy theories: Basic principles of an emerging research domain

Will any of this help anti-vaccine folks see that these anti-vaccine conspiracy theories aren’t true?

Unfortunately, it probably won’t.

Like vaccine-injury stories, conspiracy theories are one of the things that hold up, and hold together, the modern anti-vaccine movement.

More on Why Would Vaccines Be Designed to Kill People?