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Fact Check-Study does not show 79.4% of infants died on same day as vaccination

Social media reports suggesting that 79.4% of babies who died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) had received a vaccination on the day of their death are inaccurate, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told Reuters.

People posting that online are misinterpreting a study published in 2015, the CDC said. That study does not say that all those babies died on the same day they received a vaccination. Overall, the report found no “concerning pattern” in the data (per the paper’s conclusions).

Instagram posts with the false assertion “79.4% of babies who die of “SIDS” had a vaccine the same day” can be seen here here.

Versions of the same claim have been circulating since at least December 2020 ( here , here , here ).

Some users point to a 2015 paper authored by members of the Immunization Safety Office of the CDC ( here ), ( here ), which reviewed data from the Vaccine Adverse Event System (VAERS) for U.S. reports of death after any vaccination between July 1st 1997 and Dec. 31, 2013.

As previously explained by Reuters ( here ), anyone can add adverse event reports into VAERS ( vaers.hhs.gov/reportevent.html ) and the website includes clear disclaimers that reports in the system do not prove causality until they are investigated further.

MIX UP

In the paper, the authors stated that “for child death reports, 79.4% received >1 vaccine on the same day.”

Martha Sharan, a CDC spokesperson, told Reuters that meant that 79.4% of the babies who died had at some stage in their lives received more than one vaccination during a day visit to a clinic. They had received more than one vaccination on that one day. That was different from saying they had had the vaccination and died on the same day. (Authors enlisted the combination of vaccines in Table 4, here)

In most cases, the vaccination and death took place on different days. According to Sharan, “vaccination and death occurred on the same day in 206 of 1770 (11%) death reports with autopsy report or death certificate data.” This was not stated in the article, she said.

Table 1 of the paper ( here ), shows the onset - meaning the interval between vaccination and death in infants - ranged from 0 up to 1,478 days after vaccination; the median was two days for infants.

“More importantly, for the vast majority of [overall] reports (91%), there was nothing in the medical records that indicated the deaths were causally related to vaccinations,” Sharan said.

SIDS

Authors of the 2015 paper reported no “concerning pattern” among the VAERS death reports during this period and that the main causes of death coincided with the most common causes of death in the U.S. population (see conclusion, here).

They reported that out of the 1,244 child death reports with available death certificates or autopsy reports, 44% were caused by SIDS, followed by asphyxia (6%), septicemia (4.9%) and pneumonia (4.6%)

SIDS - defined as “the unexplained death, usually during sleep, of a seemingly healthy baby less than a year old” by The Mayo Clinic ( here ) - is the leading cause of death in children ages one month to one year old, U.S. government website Medline Plus says ( here ).

The American Association on Pediatricians highlights the importance of providing a “safe sleep environment” to reduce the risk of sleep-related infant deaths, including SIDS. See recommendations here. Other guidance by the AAP includes breastfeeding, regular checkups for the infant, avoiding smoking during pregnancy or near the baby and not drinking or using drugs while pregnant ( here ).

The CDC says on its website ( here ) that vaccines “have not been shown to cause” SIDS, pointing to several studies, here, here, here, here.

VERDICT

False. Claims that 79.4% of babies who died of SIDS received a vaccination on the same day are false. This false allegation is based on a misinterpretation of a study by CDC personnel.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here.

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