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.”
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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.