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JAMA Study Highlights Vaccination Risks in Low Birth Weight Infants

A prenatal infant lying in an incubator.

The nearly 14,000 ELBW infants studied had received a total of 48,853 vaccinations and 91.2% (12,703) of them had been given three or more vaccinations…

A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics provides evidence that extremely low birth weight (ELBW) infants run a higher risk of suffering from adverse events such as fever, breathing problems (apnea), abnormally slow heart rates (bradycardia), and fever soon after being vaccinated. An even more serious and potentially deadly complication detected was sepsis, which is an overwhelming immune response to a bacterial infection that can cause organ failure. According to the research, these complications “present a diagnostic dilemma for physicians” which could potentially lead to delaying vaccinations.

The cohort study was conducted in 348 neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) managed by the Pediatrix Medical Group, Inc, an operating unit of MEDNAX Services, Inc. of Sunrise FL. Principal investigators were Stephen D. DeMeo, DO; Sudha R. Raman, PhD; Christoph P. Hornik, MD, MPH; Catherine C. Wilson, DNP, NNP-BC, FNP-BC; Reese Clark, MD; and P. Brian Smith, MD, MPH, MHS. They looked at the records of 13,926 extremely low birth weight babies in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) and compared the incidence among them of life-threatening complications from infection (sepsis) that occurred three days prior to and three days after vaccination.

The researchers found an increased incidence of sepsis evaluations from 5.4 per 1,000 patient-days before vaccination to 19.3 per 1,000 patient-days after vaccinations. They observed an increased need for more respiratory support for the infants from 6.6 per 1,000 patient-days prior to vaccination to 14 per 1,000 patient-days after vaccination. The need for intubation (insertion of a tube into the windpipe to keep it open so the infant can breathe) also increased from 2 per 1,000 patient-days before vaccination to 3.6 per 1,000 patient-days after vaccination.

The nearly 14,000 ELBW infants studied had received a total of 48,853 vaccinations and 91.2% (12,703) of them had been given three or more vaccinations after birth despite their extremely low birth weight of less than 2.2 pounds. According to the study authors, five of the babies died within three days of being vaccinated. Of the three dead children, one had a bowel perforation, one had necrotizing enterocolitis and presumed sepsis, and one had pneumonia and respiratory failure.

In their conclusions, the authors of the study wrote, “Our findings provide no evidence to suggest that physicians should not use combination vaccines in ELBW infants. Further studies are needed to determine whether timing or spacing of immunization administrations confers risk for the developing adverse events and whether a prior history of sepsis confers risk for an altered immune response in ELBW infants.”


Read the study “Adverse Events After Routine Immunization of Extremely Low-Birth-Weight Infants” in the June 2015 issue of JAMA Pediatrics.

13 Responses to JAMA Study Highlights Vaccination Risks in Low Birth Weight Infants

  1. Jenny M Reply

    October 23, 2015 at 4:12 pm

    Two autistic kids I know both were preemies and both got all the vaccines before they were able to leave the NICU. Before they were born, both mothers had terrible diets (one was a mostly vegan- the other had a high sugar diet, along with an addiction to Diet Coke).

  2. Christine White Reply

    October 14, 2015 at 1:33 am

    Not directly related to this article, I was reading an article concerning perinatal/neonatal strokes. “A Primer for Nurses on Perinatal/Neonatal Stroke” by Jill S. Becker(Nursing for Women’s Health by AWHONN Aug/Sept 2015 pg. 350-355.) The thought occured to me if the Hepatitis B Vaccine (which is given immediately after birth to most infants) could be a causitive factor for all of these before unheard of strokes in neonates??? It would be interesting to do research on this and see if there is a correlation…

    • Kathy Reply

      February 2, 2016 at 7:40 am

      Christine, have you heard of the work of the late Dr Andrew Moulden. His whole premise is that strokes are caused by vaccines due to excess white blood cells that block capillaries – including those in the brain, i.e. stroke.

  3. Cindy Griffin Reply

    September 18, 2015 at 4:15 pm

    Sadly, in reading the abstract, the conclusions are not what one might expect, based on the facts they find. While they do the comparison, and blatantly state that (emphasis in all-caps mine) “immunization of extremely- low-birth-weight (ELBW) infants in the [NICU] IS ASSOCIATED WITH ADVERSE EVENTS, including fever and apnea or bradycardia, in the immediate postimmunization period…” instead of recommending waiting to vaccinate these babies, or even better, to NOT vaccinate them, the conclusion was entirely in keeping with the party line. “Conclusions and Relevance” All ELBW infants in the NICU had an increased incidence of septsis evalutation and increased respiratory support and intubation after routine immunization. Our findings provide NO EVIDENCE TO SUGGEST THAT PHYSICAINS SHOULD NOT USE COMBINATION VACCINES IN ELBW INFANTS. fURTHER STUDIES ARE NEEDED TO DETERMINE WHETHER TIMING OR SPACING OF IMMUNIZATION ADMINISTRATIONS CONFERS RISK for the developing adverse events and whether a prior history of sepsis confers risk for an altered immune response in ELBW infants.”

    I’m sorry – first they use the kids as guinea pigs and discover that indeed, there IS an association with vaccinating them and the adverse events and problems, then they conclude that it’s perfectly fine to sacrifice the health of subsequent ELBW babies and continue status quo – which clearly is found to HARM ELBW babies, by the scientists’ own admission – and now maybe, possibly, someone ought to consider whether we should use another batch of NICU ELBW babies as guinea pigs by vaccinating them all with separate vaccines.

    Is it just me, or are they avoiding the sensible, humane, reasonable conclusion that maybe instead of instituting greater NICU emergency measures when it’s a problem, they should eliminate the causation and STOP VACCINATING ELBW INFANTS?!?

  4. CarolC Reply

    September 10, 2015 at 12:22 pm

    I would love to see a follow-up study comparing the vaccinated vs unvaccinated neonates at ages 3 and 5. My guess would be that the vaccinated group will have far more learning disabilities and health issues.

    Is it possible to find out who funded the research for this study?

    • WhiteCrow Reply

      September 15, 2015 at 3:31 am

      That certainly wasn’t so in this country pre the number of vaccines received today. In fact many of the vaccines now given were not invented when I was a child or raising my own. Illness was also rare in infants because they were not taken into the mainstream so much when very young. I can’t agree with you on the idea that vaccines help as much as claimed. I do know the science. I do understand the literature, but I have had nothing but issues with my own vaccinations. I was given polio by the polio vaccine, became will immediately after each flu injection and got pneumonia each time – but this stopped once stopping the vaccinations – and that wonderful TB vaccination just ‘happened’ to send me to into chronic fatigue symptoms for almost a decade, The one grandchild that had a vaccination had highly problematic food allergies for her first three years of life immediately following vaccination. I think a one size fits all does not work because people are biochemically non essentialist and that is the main problem.

    • Felicia Wierenga Reply

      September 17, 2015 at 11:14 am

      I would love to volunteer for that study. I have seven unvaccinated children, one of whom was born at 28.5 weeks with severely underdeveloped lungs having survived 6 weeks pre birth with ruptured membranes. We declined all vaccines (in Canada it’s our decision to make, thankfully). He had pulmonary hypertension at first, and serious bleeding on the brain but was able to home by his due date, and has been a healthy child. His doctors were amazed and surprised. I privately believe the vaccines would have damaged him.

  5. Sean Burke Reply

    September 5, 2015 at 9:53 pm

    We have just gone vaccine nuts in this nation. 26 by age one. 53 now by age six. Injecting premies and pregnant women. Mandatory vaccines in California. I love the conclusion “further study is needed” Come on.

  6. Tim Lundeen Reply

    September 5, 2015 at 4:48 pm

    Not only that, but the report is quite misleading about how often this happens, because it talks about incidence per 1,000 patient-days. Measuring vaccine injury per patient-day makes no sense: the vaccines are not given to an infant every day. They are either given or not, the infant either appears to be OK or is obviously affected. So the report should measure adverse effects per infant.

    The average ELBW infant is in the NICU for 15 to 31 days (varies depending on hospital and their policies). So 1,000 patient-days is somewhere between 30 and 60 infants.
    Without vaccination, about 11 infants per 30-60 infants will have an issue (1/6th to 1/3 of them). With vaccination, about 30 infants per 30-60 infants will have issues (from 1/2 to almost all of them).

    The conclusion of the paper, that there is no reason to stop using combination vaccines, is insane.

    • Becky Reply

      September 6, 2015 at 2:31 pm

      Great point Tim. I appreciate your clarification. For me when I read this study the first time the 1000 days definitely created confusion rather than understanding. It would seem to be deliberate obfuscation?

      Should all of the authors need to be called to some sort of accountability for their conclusion? How can the journal accept this without some intense questioning? Where are the peers ready to stand up and ask the hard questions? Isn’t science supposed to be “self-regulating” as we think critically about the validity of the work of other scientists?

      • D Reply

        November 4, 2015 at 4:06 am

        “Should all of the authors need to be called to some sort of accountability for their conclusion?”

        It’s not the scientists. If they had put the actual results in their abstract of conclusion, the journals would not have published the paper. They’ve done the best they can to get the data out there for anyone who is willing to read it. Such people are few & far between. No one has time. Few do anything other than merely skim. But regarding the authors – even doing the study was a potentially dangerous move.

        “How can the journal accept this without some intense questioning? Where are the peers ready to stand up and ask the hard questions? Isn’t science supposed to be “self-regulating” as we think critically about the validity of the work of other scientists?”

        You are mistaking JAMA, NEJM, BMJ and the like for scientific journals. They are not. They are trade magazines. As Drummond Rennie, deputy editor of JAMA put it, “Medicine is becoming sort of a cloud cuckoo land, where doctors don’t know what papers they can trust in journals.” Similar comments have been made by long-time editors of the other journals I mentioned.

        These are all open secrets; but the pharma PR industry is a powerful one.

    • Sam Reply

      September 10, 2015 at 7:30 pm

      You’re insane sir…vaccines kill children…

    • Maria Reply

      March 23, 2016 at 1:26 pm

      They should further expand the sample size to include different weights. A 9+ LB baby is a lot larger than a 6 LB baby and 4-5 x’s bigger than 2.2 LB baby. Low weight should be a sign of caution. My 1st was 6.1 lb @ 42.5 weeks (induced) vs 2nd child 8.2 lbs @ 41 weeks.

      I was afraid the 1st was going to be so big because I was pregnant for so long and had gained so much weight. I was always puzzled why he was so small at birth only to find out a decade later he had ADHD due to many food allergies, gluten/ dairy/ eggs as well as a MTHFR gene mutation which in its most severe mutation is associated with autism. Only when we removed the allergens from the diet did he start to grow properly and catch up. Vaccines should start at older ages (2+) similar to other countries esp. if the child is breastfed.

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