Updated
November 18th, 2019

$300K Financial Award for Vaccine-Related SIDS Fatality Negated By Court

SIDS is considered an off-table injury by the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act

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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed a lower court’s conclusion that the special master Thomas Gowen erred when awarding compensation attributed to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

This 4-month old infant had received vaccinations for diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis, polio, rotavirus, and Hepatitis B the day before the child passed away.

According to BloombergLaw on November 7, 2019, the parents of a baby found dead in his crib aren’t entitled to recover compensation under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act (NCVIA) of 1986 because they didn’t have “sound and reliable” proof a vaccine caused the child’s death.

Causation must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence for claims involving unlisted, or “off-table,” injuries.

SIDS is considered an off-table injury.

A vaccine is presumed to have caused or contributed to an injury listed on the Vaccine Act Injury Table that occurred within a certain time after the vaccine was administered.

A leading SIDS researcher said SIDS occurs when three factors are present: a vulnerability, such as prematurity, male gender, race, or maternal smoking during pregnancy; a baby is in its first 6-months of life; and “exogenous stressors,” such as a prone sleep position, soft bedding, or overheating, are present.

A researcher said vaccines aren’t such stressors, reported BloombergLaw.

But the petitioners’ expert didn’t provide a “reputable medical or scientific explanation” for how vaccines cause SIDS and, by extension, how they caused or contributed to the child’s death, the Federal Circuit said.

Additionally, much of the Court of Federal Claims’ analysis focused on the fact that the Special Master’s decision, in this case, was contrary to other Special Masters’ decisions in other cases addressing the issue of vaccination causation in SIDS deaths. 

The Court of Federal Claims faulted the Special Master for “making no acknowledgment of the other SIDS cases reaching opposite conclusions and making no attempt to distinguish the instant case from any of the others.”

Case background: 

At the child (JB)’s 4-month well-baby visit, J.B. was healthy, with normal chest and lungs and no fever, nasal congestion, or cough. At that appointment, J.B. received various vaccinations. Later that evening, J.B. reportedly had a fever and did not sleep well. 

At 4:00 AM the next day, J.B.’s parents gave him Advil for his fever, and he went back to sleep. By approximately 8:00 AM, J.B. was again running a fever and was given another dose of Advil.

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In the early afternoon, J.B.’s father put him down for a nap on his back in his crib. J.B.’s mother checked on him and replaced his pacifier. She returned to check on him a second time and found him unresponsive on his right side.

The medical examiner  Dr. Jeffrey Gofton performed an autopsy and concluded that the cause of death was SIDS.

Opinions:

Chief Judge Sharon Prost wrote the opinion. Judge Evan J. Wallach wrote a concurring opinion and Judge Pauline Newman dissented. 

SIDS isn’t a cause of death; it’s an admission that the cause of death is unknown, Newman said. 

The close temporal proximity between a vaccine and the fever and death of a healthy baby presents a reasonable likelihood the vaccine caused or contributed to the injury, concluded Newman.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says ‘babies receive multiple vaccines when they are between 2 to 4 months old. This age range is also the peak age for SIDS. Studies have found that vaccines do not cause and are not linked to SIDS.’

Related news

The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 created as a no-fault alternative to the traditional tort system. 

According to the CDC, from 2006 to 2017 over 3.4 billion doses of covered vaccines were distributed in the USA. For petitions filed in this time period, 6,253 petitions were adjudicated by the Court, and of those 4,291 were compensated.

This means for every 1 million doses of vaccine that were distributed, 1 individual was compensated.   

Total compensation paid over the life of the program is approximately $4.1 billion. Being awarded compensation for a petition does not necessarily mean that the vaccine caused the alleged injury, says the court.

The case is Boatman v. Sec’y of Health & Human Servs., Fed. Cir., No. 18-2333, 11/7/19.

Vaccine news is published by Precision Vaccinations