Yet another reason to push back — hard — against anti-vaccine scaremongering: at least seven babies have been admitted to Vanderbilt University’s Monroe Carrell Jr. Children’s Hospital with cases of VKDB — Vitamin K Deficiency bleeding, which can cause brain damage, intestinal hemorrhaging, and death.

It’s a relatively rare disorder.

It’s also 100% preventable when injections of Vitamin K are administered routinely at birth, as they have been in this country since 1961.

A sample of phytomenadione (vitamin K1) for injection, also called phylloquinone. Photo courtesy LHcheM via Wikimedia Commons.

A sample of phytomenadione (vitamin K1) for injection, also called phylloquinone. Photo courtesy LHcheM via Wikimedia Commons.

But, in a trend that seems to be closely aligned with the anti-vaccine movement, more parents fear the Vitamin K vaccine and have refused it on behalf of their newborns.

Babies don’t have enough Vitamin K in their systems: not enough of it crosses the placenta or via breastmilk (though infant formula does contain the blood-coagulating vitamin) so an injection is given at birth to eliminate the risk of potentially fatal bleeds.

As with the vaccine ‘controversy,’ outdated information appears to be responsible for parents’ fears. Though a study indicating some link between the Vitamin K shot and childhood leukemia has long been discredited,fears remain alive, well, and plausible on the Internet.

One blog, The Healthy Home Economist, to which I will not link, flatly instructs parents to eat leafy greens and “skip that newborn Vitamin K shot,” citing the leukemia link and the ‘scary’ list of additives to the vitamin injection.

The CDC reported that last year, one Tennessee birthing center had a startling 28% refusal rate for the Vitamin K injection. They plan further studies to “better understand why some parents decline this safe and effective prophylaxis.”

Brace yourselves: I can easily see the push for these shots to be required, and, from that the emergence of a host of “religious” objections and a battle for parents’ rights to deny the science and potentially make their children victims of their own ignorant — but sincerely held — religious belief.



  1. Undoing more than a century’s worth of social and economic reform clearly isn’t enough for some people– now they have to undo more than a century’s worth of medical advances!

    Instead of scouring the internet in search of evidence to support the latest paranoiac conspiracy theory, such people would do well to pick up a few good history books and learn about the “good old days” they seem so fond of.

    As you have wisely suggested before, such people would do well to spend a good bit of time in a place like Malawi. There they will be better able to appreciate the glories of life devoid of all those dreadful advances that were made in “The American Century.”

    How much they will like it is another story…

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