Since 1961, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has recommended that all newborns receive a vitamin K1 injection to prevent uncontrolled bleeding caused by vitamin K deficiency.1,2
Vitamin K1 is required for proper blood clotting, and newborns tend to have low levels due to the fact that vitamin K doesn’t cross the placenta very well. Deficiency can result in sudden internal bleeding — typically in the brain or intestines. This is referred to as “vitamin K deficiency bleeding” or VKDB, and can be life-threatening.
Research published in 20143,4 in the journal Pediatrics found the number of parents declining the vitamin K shot for their newborn babies was on the rise, increasing from 0.21% in 2006 to 0.39% in 2012.5
The data were based on infants born in Alberta, Canada. In the U.S., data6 presented at the 2014 CSTE conference reported the refusal rate at two Nashville, Tennessee, hospitals ranged from 2.3% to 3.7% in 2013.
A second 2014 study7 also concluded vitamin K refusal was on the rise, and with it, an increase in late onset vitamin K deficiency bleeding in infants. Of seven infants with confirmed vitamin K deficiency, five developed vitamin K deficiency bleeding.
A 2017 poll8 found the most common reasons given by parents for refusing the vitamin K shot were “perceptions of parents that the injection was unnecessary, lack of knowledge about vitamin K deficiency bleeding, and concern about preservatives.”
Vitamin K Refusal Linked to Vaccine Avoidance
As reported by Scientific American,9 the 2014 Pediatrics paper10 found that children who did not receive the vitamin K shot at birth were also 14.6 times more likely to be unvaccinated at the age of 15 months. According to the authors:11
“This is the first population-based study to characterize parents who are likely to decline vitamin K for their infants and whose children are likely to be unimmunized. These findings enable earlier identification of high-risk parents and provide an opportunity to enact strategies to increase uptake of vitamin K and childhood immunizations.”
Senior author Shannon MacDonald told Scientific American:12
“Our finding of a link between vitamin K refusal and vaccine refusal was very concerning. We had expected a correlation between the two but had not expected the association to be so high.”
The correlation between vitamin K shot refusal and vaccine avoidance is turning out to have severe ramifications for many parents. In short, by saying no to the vitamin K shot, some hospitals are automatically labeling you a negligent parent and a dreaded anti-vaxxer in the making, so to speak.
Babies Taken From Parents Who Refused Vitamin K Shot
A number of stories have emerged detailing how parents have had their newborn babies taken from them by simply because they declined the vitamin K injection. In a September 2019 article,13 The Daily Citizen describes the harrowing ordeal of Angela and Brian Bougher:
“The Christian couple believes that ‘God’s creation isn’t automatically deficient or flawed at birth’ and the shot is unnecessary. The Boughers have a right to their beliefs, and if they were fully informed of the risks then they should be able to decline. The state of Illinois didn’t see it that way.
Instead, in the moments after birth, a nurse told the Boughers that their newborn daughter was being taken away and they were being investigated for ‘medical neglect.’ It took 12 hours to get their daughter back.
It’s debatable whether the logic of Boughers’ decision is sound — however, medical professionals should know that the first moments of life are crucial to both mother and child. To remove a child for such a reason is a severe overreach of the state’s responsibility to protect children from neglectful parents.
The family’s pain did not stop there. Later the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) had law enforcement officers make an unannounced visit the Boughers’ home to investigate and determine if any of their other four children were being ‘neglected.'”
The Boughers and several other Illinois families who experienced harassment and investigation by the DCFS over refusal of the vitamin K shot have filed a class action lawsuit against local hospitals (Silver Cross Hospital, Advocate Christ Medical Center and the University of Chicago Medical Center), the AAP, the DCFS and several pediatricians. As reported by CBS September 24, 2019:14
“They want a compensation and a court-enforced guarantee that the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services won’t be called if parents refuse to give their babies a Vitamin K shot.”