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Scottish Investigation Into Sudden Infant Death Spike Will Not Check Mother’s Vaccine Status

39 babies died in Scotland within 28 days of their birth in September 2021 and March of 2022, triggering an automatic investigation into the causes behind their deaths, for the first time since monitoring began in 2017. The Herald reported last week that Healthcare Improvement Scotland has begun their investigation, appointing retired consultant neonatologist Dr Helen Mactier to chair the expert panel, which should report back their findings in the Autumn.

Preliminary investigations couldn’t find a “direct link” between either the mothers or children being infected with COVID-19, but that chance variations were unlikely. One potential cause identified was the “social and economic pressures of the pandemic period,” including neonatal staff absences caused by the pandemic. However, in October last year, Public Health Scotland ruled that any inquest into the deaths would not look into the vaccine status of the mothers, because there was “no public health reason to do so,” as vaccination policy was already “appropriately informed by good-quality population-level evidence and safety data.”

In fact, PHS argued there was a risk that “identifying the vaccination status of the mothers, even at aggregate level, would result in harm to those individuals and others close to them, through actual or perceived judgement of the effects of their personal vaccination decision.” Another critical factor for PHS in their decision was that regardless of the “outcomes of such analysis, whilst being uninformative for public health decision making, [it] had the potential to be used to harm vaccine confidence at this critical time.”

Sarah Stock, a professor in maternal and foetal health at the University of Edinburgh, claimed there was no need to look at the vaccine status of the mothers, because “you cannot go looking for things that we know are not associated”: “The global evidence is now very conclusive that vaccination is safe in pregnancy, and before pregnancy,

and there is no association with baby deaths. There’s no plausible reason why you’d look at it in this small number of cases. The right way to look at whether something causes something is to do it in big numbers, population data – that’s what we’ve done and that shows us that Covid-19 does cause problems in pregnancy, and vaccination does not.”


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