Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


The UK accelerated immunisation programme and sudden unexpected death in infancy: case-control study

BMJ 2001; 322 doi: (Published 07 April 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;322:822

Rapid Response:

Re: A Well Documented cause of SID

Fleming et. al. make an important contribution to our knowledge about vaccine safety. 1 Their study confirms existing research that vaccination may even be protective against SIDS.2 It is clear however, that some will never be convinced. 3 The reduction in Australia's SIDS incidence attributed by Duffy to a fall in vaccination rates is completely false. After published research confirmed that changes to sleeping position might reduce the risk of SIDS, rates more than halved in Australia. 4

Duffy has fallen prey to the unsupported theories of Viera Scheibner, a retired micropalaeontologist. Scheibner tours the world infecting the uncritical with her beliefs that vaccines cause anything from leukaemia to deaths from 'brain eating bugs'.5 Her hypothesis about SIDS and DTP is based on a small observational study of infant breathing patterns done when testing a breathing monitor developed by her late husband.6 Scheibner systematically misrepresents the Japanese situation. SIDS continued to occur in Japan but since the diagnosis is restricted to children under 12 months and the minimum age for vaccination increased to two years, it merely disappeared as an entity from the vaccine compensation system. 7

Duffy also alleges that Australia's vaccination rates fell by 50 per cent after Viera Scheibner began her campaigning. In fact, between 1989 and 1995 official rates for pertussis and diphtheria/tetanus vaccination fell by 12.7 and 20 per cent respectively.8 Changes to immunisation rates happen for a number of reasons.9 Although Scheibners' theories might hold sway for some, to attribute any major drop in immunisation rates to her bizarre ideas is an insult to the intelligence of Australian parents.


1. Fleming PJ, Blair PS, Platt MW, Tripp J, Smith IJ, Golding J, et al. The UK accelerated immunisation programme and sudden unexpected death in infancy: case-control study. BMJ 2001;322:822-5.

2. Mitchell EA, Stewart AW, Clements M. Immunisation and the sudden infant death syndrome. New Zealand Cot Death Study Group. Arch Dis Child 1995;73:498-501.

3. Duffy DH. A well documented cause of SID (letter). eBMJ 7 April, 2001.

4. Mitchell EA. SIDS: facts and controversies. Med J Australia 2000;173:173-4.

5. Scheibner V. Brain eating bugs: the vaccines link. Nexus Magazine 1996;3(6).

6. Scheibner V. Vaccination: 100 years of orthodox research shows that vaccines represent a medical assault on the immune system. Blackheath, NSW: Viera Scheibner, 1993.

7. Cherry JD, Brunell PA, Golden GS, Karzon DT. Report of the Task Force on Pertussis and Pertussis Immunization-1988. Pediatrics 1988;81(suppl.):939-84.

8. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Children's immunisation, Australia, April 1995. Cat. No. 4352.0. Canberra: ABS, 1996.

9. Bazeley P, Kemp L. Childhood immunisation. The role of parents and service providers: A review of the literature. Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service, 1994.

Competing interests: No competing interests

09 April 2001
Julie Leask
DrPH Candidate
Department of Public Health, University of Sydney