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:


The work of the CESDI SUDI group provides straightforward proof that
for the vast majority of people, vaccines are good and protective as is
generally recognised.

There are however problems with the tiny numbers who have adverse
effects and so as the numbers of children who contract illness, for
example tetanus tend to zero or thereabouts, then this needs to looked at.

We know how many children die from unknown events and this is lumped
together as SIDS and amounts to one child a day in the UK. Out of this it
is conceivable that some vaccine deaths are hidden possibly only a
minority of the cases.

There are concerns that need to be addressed:

1) The unusually young age at which a potential shock to the system
occurs - a baby of 2 months is unable to communicate if and what goes
wrong with a vaccination. The reason for bringing forward the date of
vaccination to 2 months - namely movement of the family seems to be a poor
reason for justifying such an action. Should not vaccination be left for 6
months for some so a comparison can be made for some children at random?
The problems of leaving DTP vaccination for 4 months longer would not be
great in a country with general good health and low incidence of these

2) The use of an organomercury compound in a vaccine is something
even respectable vaccine companies do not wish and this substance has been
already removed from some vaccines.
The study does not show which vaccines were used. The case of Karen
Wetterhahn shows the danger of organomercury and recent death from a
'safe' hair dye shows some people react badly to chemicals when most are

3) The site and type of vaccination can be important - thigh or arms,
subcutaneous, muscular. Can this be studied?

4) Contraindications - there are many reasons to postpone a
vaccination and it alarms me that a vaccine may be given when common sense
would imply erring towards caution eg one SID death in the family and the
next child may not only have the vaccine but earlier than 8 weeks and
possibly with fatal results - only to be told there were no adverse

5) The inability to sue the vaccine company. This is surely
ludicrous. We have all seen recently that deep vein thrombosis was 'non
existent', only to find that when it was accepted publicly that 3 cases a
week went for hospital treatment in one area alone and the global risk of
problems was 10%. Freedom to take action would show the true extent and
not the hidden extent of any problems.

6) Anaphylactic shock from repeat vaccines is something known about
since the first vaccinations carried out by Edward Jenner. Could it be a
second vaccination would be as protective? We may find that it is better
to leave vaccinations to a later age where good immunisation will occur
with fewer 'jabs'? A December 2000 article did show that DPT was twice as
likely to cause premature death when a vaccine for TB was administered
previously. This made the DTP the second vaccine and therefore a candidate
for anaphylactic responses.

7) There is also the possibility of anaphalactoid shock from the
first vaccination.

8) There must be ways of finding if an adverse reaction occurs
chemically as the lady who replied earlier forcibly reminds us. Levels of
some chemical are known to rise 100 fold and so this is a possible way to
check for harm.

Finally although problems do occur - we do need protection from
infectious and sometimes deadly illnesses. Vaccination is a good price to
pay for peace of mind, but it is so important to have safe vaccines,
safely administered and to recognise when harm has unfortunately occurred
to the one or two who pay the price for a society where infectious illness
amounts to only 2% of the poor health of our nation.

John Fryer Analytical Chemist

Competing interests: No competing interests

18 May 2001
John Fryer
Scientist Retired