Babies Are Getting Brain Bleeds—Are Vaccine Fears to Blame?
In May, the *Tennessean *reported on a truly shocking medical problem. Seven infants, aged between seven and 20 weeks old, had arrived at Vanderbilt University’s Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital over the past eight months with a condition called “vitamin K deficiency bleeding,” or VKDB. This rare disorder occurs because human infants do not have enough vitamin K, a blood coagulant, in their systems. Infants who develop VKDB can bleed in various parts of their bodies, including bleeding into the brain. This can cause brain damage or even death.
There is a simple protection against VKDB that has been in regular medical use since 1961, when it was recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics: Infants receive an injection of vitamin K into the leg muscle right after birth. Infants do not get enough of this vitamin from their mother’s body or her milk, so this injection (which is not a vaccine, but simply a vitamin being delivered via a shot) is essential, explains pediatrician Clay Jones on the latest installment of the Inquiring Minds podcast (stream below). It’s also quite safe.
So then why are some parents refusing to get it, leaving their infants vulnerable to a potentially devastating condition? It’s difficult to understand the phenomenon outside the context of a growing fear, in general, about vaccines in the US. “There’s a lot of overlap with that anti-vaccine mentality,” says Jones. Indeed, reporting on the Vanderbilt VKDB cases, the *Tennessean *explained that “Vanderbilt doctors believe incidences are on the rise because of the anti-vaccine movement.”
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Science aside, evidence presented by the CDC suggests that refusal of vitamin K shots may be a major phenomenon to contend with. In Tennessee, the CDC found that at the hospital with the highest rate of missed vitamin K injections, 3.4 percent of infants were discharged without receiving one. At birthing centers in the state (a hospital alternative, often run by nurse-midwives), the number was much higher: 28 percent. (The agency also hinted that medical staff may not be adequately informing parents about the need for the shot.)
I wonder if the mothers at the birthing centers are the better-off, better educated and did their own research or just wanted everything “natural”.