ETA 1.4.16: Gary Goldman and Neil Miller failed to disclose their conflicts of interest to Human and Experimental Toxicology. The corrigendum is here.
oh goodness, here I wanted to go to bed early and then I stumbled over this latest "peer reviewed" paper in a journal "indexed by the National Library of Medicine" (see the anti-vaccine faction gloating at those fantastic quality indicators) and "proving" with an correlation co-efficient of 0.992 and a p of 0.0009 (so "sciencey") that:
Nations requiring the most vaccines tend to have the worst infant mortality rates
Authors of this little gem, in the journal Human & Experimental Toxicology, with the impressive impact factor of 1.307 and a proud ranking of 58th of 77 in the area of Toxicology (yes, that would put them into the bottom quarter) are Think Twice's own Neil Z. Miller and Medical Veritas' Gary S. Goldman. I wonder why Miller and Goldman didn't publish their paper in Medical Veritas (here is the link to the journal, please don't go blind), seeing that item 7 in their mission is: "Create a movement to address the adverse vaccine reactions and vaccine-related injuries afflicting children and adults". I guess that is because parents have clued in that "peer review" and being indexed on PubMed is a quality measure (although very obviously no guarantee for quality).
In any case - Miller and Goldman took a list of countries and looked at the number of vaccines they schedule for infants and they also looked at infant mortality. And then they correlated one with the other, a fail safe way to find causal relationships: Storks deliver babies p=0.008.
There are a number of things wrong with this procedure - first of all, the way Miller and Goldman are counting vaccines is completely arbitrary and riddled with mistakes.
Arbitrary: they count number of vaccines in US bins (DTaP is one, hib is separate) and non-specific designations (some "polio" is still given as OPV in Singapore), rather than antigens. If they did that, Japan, still giving the live bacterial vaccine BCG, would immediately go to the top of the list. That wouldn't fit the agenda, of course. But if you go by "shot" rather than by antigen, why are DTaP, IPV, hepB and hib counted as 4 shots for example in Austria, when they are given as Infanrix hexa, in one syringe?
Mistakes: The German childhood vaccination schedule recommends DTaP, hib, IPV AND hepB, as well as PCV at 2, 3 and 4 months, putting them squarely into the 21 - 23 bin. The fourth round of shots is recommended at 11 to 14 months, and MenC, MMR and Varicella are recommended with a lower age limit of 11 months, too, which means that a number of German kids will fall into the highest bin, at least as long as you count the Miller/Goldman way.
Then, they neatly put those arbitrarily counted doses into bins. Binning (i.e. grouping numbers before correlating them to something) always makes me suspicious. I don't have the time to check each country's vaccination schedule - I assume there will be mistakes in many claims, but I am guessing that if we plotted the infant mortality against the actual number of recommended vaccines, the correlation would be less good than engineered in this paper, i.e. the dose count above is probably not all that "arbitrary".
Then I noticed that the authors totally ignore historical trends. For example, in the early 1980ies, Germany's infant mortality was about 5 times as high (10000 infants died per year) than it is today (2000 died in 2009 with approximately the same birth rate), however (in Miller's and Goldman's twisted logic), the vaccination schedule contained far fewer vaccines in the first year (essentially just DT and polio, since the whole cell pertussis was not given between 1974 and 1991, the aP not yet introduced, the MMR given in year 2, no hib, nor hepB, nor PCV given either), while Germany was already very much a "developed country".
ETA: a similar point is made by Prometheus on Science based Medicine for the declining infant mortality rate in the US.
If I believed that one factor could ever explain something as complex as infant mortality, I would go and look at the relationship of maternity leave:
Japan, for example, generally gives 14 weeks at an average of 40% of a woman's salary and mothers are also entitled to childcare leave for their new baby's first year. Childcare laws dictate that in the first year of her baby's life, a mother may take two 30-minute breaks per day to care for her child (anyone else think breastfeeding?). She may also take time off any time during the baby's first year with one month's notice.
In Sweden, all working parents are entitled to up to 16 months of paid parental leave, Norway is similarly generous. Read the table and weep, US American parents!
In the bottom countries, the USA gives 0 months of parental leave, the FMLA offers some (up to 12 weeks) generally unpaid leave under very specific conditions. Heck - Botswana and Chad have better rules. Australia has 18 weeks (not months, like Norway) at minimal wage, but then, Canada, third worst in infant mortality has up to a year of parental leave at almost $2000 a month and that is where my crude correlation fails (although, if I binned some countries...a cunning plan).
ETA: Dr. Gorski picks up on some other flaws of this study - read his post.
In general, several large studies/meta-analyses NOT cited by Miller and Goldman, have indicated that if vaccines have anything to do with infant death, then as a protective factor, as this German study and meta-analysis and this large study from the UK.
To prevent SIDS (specified 10 May after comment):
put your baby "back to sleep"
do not smoke
breastfeed if at all possible (easier in countries with 18 months of paid maternity leave)
avoid loose bedding and soft mattresses or sofas
do not bed share when intoxicated, or smoker, or taking medicine that may make you drowsy, but keep your baby in your room
keep the sleep environment cool and don't overdress your baby
That is it.