Parents are Refusing Vitamin K Shots for Their Newborns. It’s a Terrible Idea.


This is Vitamin K. Vitamin K is a friendly, fat-soluble vitamin. Without it, your blood will stop clotting
and you die. You can find vitamin K in all sorts of good
things, like kale and other green leafy vegetables and some gross things like liver. You can also find Vitamin K in this form: This form of Vitamin K – an intramuscular
injection – has been recommended for newborns by the American Academy of Pediatrics since
1961. Newborns have low reserves of Vitamin K. Without
this shot, they are prone to a condition called Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding or VKDB which
can cause intracranial hemorrhage and lifelong disability or death. VKDB had been, essentially, eradicated. That is, until recently, when new cases started
popping up – here’s an early report from the CDC in 2013: Why are we seeing a resurgence in this totally
preventable disease? Because parents have started to refuse to
allow their newborns to receive Vitamin K injections, as revealed in this paper appearing
in the journal Pediatrics. The researchers examined the birth records
of nearly 103,000 newborns from centers participating in the Better Outcomes through Research for
Newborns study. Of those, 638, 0.6%, had parents who refused
Vitamin K injections. I know what you’re thinking – that’s
less than 1 in 100. You’re right – it’s not too bad. But the refusal behavior is associated with
a variety of other dangerous behaviors. 82% of the Vitamin K refusers also refused
ocular prophylaxis for Gonococcal ophthalmia neonatorum which can result in permanent blindness. And 74% of the vitamin K refusers also refused
hepatitis B vaccination. The study examined the characteristics of
the refusers. Consistent with prior research, those who
refused Vitamin K shots were more likely to be non-Hispanic whites, to have private insurance,
and to plan to feed the newborn only with breastmilk. This is ironic, as formula has substantially
more vitamin K than breastmilk does. I asked lead author Dr. Jaspreet Loyal what
is behind these refusals. “Vitamin K is a victim in a sense, as there
are many families that think that Vitamin K is a vaccine and a lot of fear comes from
that perception in some cases. I don’t think that prominent individuals
speaking about vaccines in a negative way helps the situation”. No. It certainly does not. Vitamin K refusal is a symptom of a bigger
problem – mistrust of the medical establishment. It is a mistrust born out of our failure to
connect with our patients in the context of the ten-minute visits mandated by our administrators
and by the vicissitudes of payer reimbursement rates. And it is exasperated by a diet, supplement,
and alternative medicine industry that depends on undercutting established medical science
for their own profits. We need to address these issues head on. If not, our patients – and their children
– will pay for it.

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