The self-controlled case series method (SCCS) was developed to analyze the association between a time-varying exposure and an outcome event. We consider penta- or hexavalent vaccination as the exposure and unexplained sudden unexpected death (uSUD) as the event. The special situation of multiple exposures and a terminal event requires adaptation of the standard SCCS method. This paper proposes a new adaptation, in which observation periods are truncated according to the vaccination schedule. The new method exploits known minimum spacings between successive vaccine doses. Its advantage is that it is very much simpler to apply than the method for censored, perturbed or curtailed post-event exposures recently introduced. This paper presents a comparison of these two SCCS methods by simulation studies and an application to a real data set. In the simulation studies, the age distribution and the assumed vaccination schedule were based on real data. Only small differences between the two SCCS methods were observed, although 50 per cent of cases could not be included in the analysis with the SCCS method with truncated observation periods. By means of a study including 300 uSUD, a 16-fold risk increase after the 4th dose could be detected with a power of at least 90 per cent. A general 2-fold risk increase after vaccination could be detected with a power of 80 per cent. Reanalysis of data from cases of the German case–control study on sudden infant death (GeSID) resulted in slightly higher point estimates using the SCCS methods than the odds ratio obtained by the case–control analysis. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.