US Infant Mortality Rate Jumps First Time in Over 20 Years

Naveen Athrappully
By Naveen Athrappully
November 1, 2023US News
US Infant Mortality Rate Jumps First Time in Over 20 Years
The toes of a baby peek out of a blanket at a hospital in McAllen, in Texas. (Eric Gay/AP Photo)

Infant mortality in the United States rose for the first time in more than two decades, with male infants seeing a bigger increase in death rates than females, according to a recent report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“The provisional infant mortality rate for the United States in 2022 was 5.60 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, 3 percent higher than the rate in 2021 (5.44),” the CDC said in a Nov. 1 report. The rise in infant mortality breaks a two-decade-old trend of declines, with this being the first year-to-year increase since 2001-2002. Total infant deaths in 2022 were 20,538, up from 19,928 from the year.

The neonatal mortality rate—infant deaths within 28 days of age—rose from 3.49 to 3.58 deaths per 1,000 live births during this period. Postneonatal mortality rate—infant deaths between 28 and 364 days of age—increased from 1.95 to 2.02.

Gender-wise, male infants saw the largest increase in death rates, which jumped from 5.83 to 6.06. The increase among female infants “was not significant,” the report said.

In terms of race, infants born to black women had the highest rate of death at 10.86, followed by American Indian and Alaska Native at 9.06, Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander at 8.50, Hispanic at 4.88, white at 4.52, and Asian at 3.50.

There were disparities in death rates among states. “Compared with 2021, the infant mortality rate in 2022 declined significantly in one state (Nevada) and increased in four states (Georgia, Iowa, Missouri, and Texas). Changes in the remaining states and the District of Columbia were not significant,” the report stated.

The leading cause of death was congenital malformation, accounting for 4,000 deaths. This was followed by short gestation and low birth weight, sudden infant death syndrome, accidents, and maternal complications of pregnancy.

In an interview with AP, Danielle Ely, the CDC report’s lead author, said that researchers could not conclude whether the jump in infant mortality rate last year was a one-year blip or the beginning of a new trend.

“It would appear that some of the states could be having a larger impact on the (national) rate,” she said while adding that it is hard to point out the exact factors driving the rise in infant mortality.

Marie Thoma, a University of Maryland researcher who studies maternal and infant mortality, told the outlet that the data is “definitely concerning, given that it’s going in the opposite direction from what it has been.”

US Worst Infant Mortality Rate

According to a January report by health research organization The Commonwealth Fund, the United States has the worst infant mortality rate among the 13 developed nations in the study.

U.S. infant mortality rate in 2020 was at 5.4 per 1,000 live births, higher than the second-placed Canada’s 4.5 rate by 20 percent. It was also more than three times the best-ranked nation on the list—Norway, with a rate of just 1.6.

In an interview with CNN, Dr. Sandy Chung, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, pointed out that the CDC’s latest infant mortality data was “shockingly high” given the wealth of the nation.

“As pediatricians who help children grow into healthy adults, any death of any child is one too many. The infant mortality rate in this country is unacceptable,” she said.

“In a country as wealthy as ours, no one should have difficulty accessing healthcare … We need to change policies to help lift families out of poverty and help them get access to healthcare sooner before it is too late.”

The high infant mortality rate in America coincides with the elevated maternal mortality rate. “Women in the U.S. have long had the highest rate of maternal mortality related to complications of pregnancy and childbirth,” the Commonwealth Fund report said.

“In 2020, there were nearly 24 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births in the U.S., more than three times the rate in most of the other high-income countries we studied.”

According to an Aug. 1 report by health advocacy group March of Dimes, almost six million American women were living in areas with little to no access to maternity care.

Infant Deaths and Vaccines

Some people have also questioned the role of COVID-19 vaccines in the jump in infant mortality. “Why did infant mortality rise 3 percent last year? That’s a HUGE spike. I wonder if it has anything to do with the COVID vaccine … I guess we’ll never know,” podcast host Joey Mannarino said in a Nov. 1 X post.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended COVID-19 vaccines for children as young as six months old.

A July 20 study published in the Cureus journal found that among developed nations, countries where children are subjected to the most number of neonatal vaccine doses tend to have higher mortality rates for kids under the age of five.

“Some nations administer hepatitis B and tuberculosis (BCG) vaccines to their infants shortly after birth. We found that nations that require both vaccines had significantly worse infant mortality rates when compared to nations that require neither vaccine,” Neil Miller, an author of the study and director of the Institute of Medical and Scientific Inquiry in New Mexico, said in an interview with The Epoch Times.

“Hepatitis B and tuberculosis vaccines, given shortly after birth when the immune system is immature and the neonate has low weight, may increase vulnerability to serious adverse reactions and deaths that ultimately contribute to higher neonatal, infant, and under-age-5 mortality rates.”

Megan Redshaw contributed to the report.

From The Epoch Times

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