According to The Tennessean, seven infants between the ages of 7 weeks and 20 weeks have been diagnosed with vitamin K deficiency bleeding (or VKDB) in the past eight months at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. The cases have alarmed doctors enough that they are calling for a national tracking system. The disorder usually affects fewer than 1 in 100,000 infants, but doctors at the hospital believe that cases are on the rise because of the anti-vaccine movement:
“There is no tracking of this in the U.S., unfortunately, and cases are rarely reported,” said Dr. Robert Sidonio Jr. with the Vanderbilt hospital. “We are probably just seeing the tip of the iceberg, and I worry that people are missing these cases often and not considering this diagnosis when presented with a sick infant.”
The primary role of vitamin K in the human body is blood clotting:
Without supplementation, newborns are at risk for a potentially devastating condition known as vitamin K-deficient bleeding (VKDB), formerly known as hemorrhagic disease of the newborn. VKDB is a better designation because life-threatening bleeds can occur as late as 3 months of age, particularly in breastfed babies who did not receive an intramuscular dose of vitamin K on the first day of life. Most bleeding occurs during the first week, however.
Mark and Melissa Knotowicz decided against the shots for their twins, who were born last summer. They had heard that a preservative in the shot could cause childhood leukemia. An old study drew a correlation between the preservative and leukemia, but follow up studies have disproved the theory. When one of their infants became sick, they took him to the doctor, where they uncovered that they had refused the shot. This information prompted the doctor to do CT scans which showed the baby had multiple brain bleeds. He spent a week in the hospital, is undergoing physical therapy for neuromuscular development issues, and doctors don’t know yet “whether he will suffer problems with intellectual development.”
Why are some parents like these refusing to get the shot? From Mother Jones:
“Reasons included concern about an increased risk for leukemia when vitamin K is administered, an impression that the injection was unnecessary, and a desire to minimize the newborn’s exposure to ‘toxins,'” observes a CDC report. These concerns are scientifically questionable at best. “Earlier concern regarding a possible causal association between parenteral [injected] vitamin K and childhood cancer has not been substantiated,” states the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Sound vaguely familiar? A study freaks parents out, is disproved, and the effects of the faulty study continue to make parents afraid of medicine. It’s absolutely terrifying how quickly misinformation can spread.
My midwives absolutely told me to question the Vitamin K shot. They were homebirthing midwives and were definitely on the “more natural” side of things. When “natural” starts to equal “against science” I become worried. The shot is even more necessary for women who breastfeed exclusively, as breastfed babies tend to be vitamin K deficient. A Slate article on the subject points out, “the shot is even more necessary for women who want to breast-feed exclusively, which is darkly ironic, considering how breast-feeding has been elevated to a near-religious status in the same circles that tend to be hostile to vaccinations and now the vitamin K shot.”
The same articles author, Amanda Marcotte, points out “The anti-vaccination movement has morphed into an anti-shot movement, and it’s children who are paying the price.”