Apparently the anti-vaccine movement is extending their distrust to more than just vaccines. Interesting write up over at Scientific American on how a growing number of parents who deny vaccines are also refusing vitamin K shots. (Note: Unfortunately, the paper does not seem to be published yet as I can't find it on PubMed, so will have to trust SciAm's reporting of the data).

Vitamin K is actually incredibly important for the coagulation process in your blood. In fact, the reason it's named K is because its was dubbed the Koagulationsvitamin in a German journal. Newborns are defective in vitamin K (it doesn't readily cross the placenta, and is not present in breast milk), and are therefore at risk of bleeding. From the SciAm article on the risks involved:

Classic vitamin K deficiency bleeding, although rarely fatal, occurs in the first week of life to 0.25 to 1.7 percent of babies who do not receive the compound. Late vitamin K deficiency bleeding, which generally can occur up to six months old, is rarer but deadlier; the hemorrhaging nearly always occurs in babies' brains but can also occur in the intestines and affects four to seven of every 100,000 infants without the shot. About 20 percent of the babies die and 50 percent sustain long-term brain damage.

Therefore, it has been standard practice to give newborns a shot of vitamin K to prevent the rare, but serious effects of vitamin K deficiency.

I was shocked to find that some parents were refusing this simple injection. A quick google search found sites advertising the "dangers" of this shot. Namely:

There are three primary areas of risk associated with these injections:

  • Among the most significant is inflicting pain immediately after birth which has the potential to cause psycho-emotional damage and trauma to a newborn.
  • The amount of vitamin K injected into newborns is 20,000 times the needed doseiv . Additionally, the injection may also contain preservatives that can be toxic for your baby's delicate, young immune system.
  • An injection creates an additional opportunity for infection in an environment that contains some of the most dangerous germs, at a time when your baby's immune system is still immature.

So it seems as if parents are motivated by a nebulous fear of "psycho-emotional damage" from a needle prick, and an unwarranted distrust of disturbing the immune system (I'm pretty sure those needles are sterile). Hey, you know what's great for an immune system? Vaccines.

A part of me hopes that this trend can be countered with educating parents on the beneficial effects of vitamin K, and why an injection at birth is important. Another part realizes that education efforts might be futile.