Why anti-vaccine shouldn’t mean anti-shot for infants

A small percentage of parents in the United States have decided to avoid inoculating their newborns on the basis certain vaccine ingredients cause more harm…

Daniela Chavarriaga holds her daughter, Emma Chavarriaga, as pediatrician Jose Rosa-Olivares, M.D. administers a measles vaccination during a visit to the Miami Children’s Hospital on June 02, 2014 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

A small percentage of parents in the United States have decided to avoid inoculating their newborns on the basis certain vaccine ingredients cause more harm than good. But when it comes to newborn health, experts say this anti-vaccine movement has turned into an anti-shot movement–and it is putting babies at risk for other reasons.

Naturally deficient in vitamin K when they are born, infants typically receive a multivitamin injection to ensure they develop normal blood clotting abilities. In some areas of the country, however, doctors are seeing more and more parents declining this standard medical practice, and as a result they are seeing more and more infants being admitted to the hospital for vitamin K deficiency bleeding (VKDB).

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“This shot is a casualty of perfect public-health policy,” Dr. Robert Sidonio, a Vanderbilt pediatrician who has been tracking VKDB, told Yahoo News. “It’s very inexpensive, widely used, and highly effective. And because there are rarely any cases [of VKDB], parents had never heard of it, so people begin to wonder why they should have the shot at all. The problem is that there isn’t a national tracking system in the United States, so it’s difficult to keep tabs on what’s happening elsewhere.”

VKBD affects approximately 1 in 100,000 infants, and the Baby Center indicates baby with a deficiency of vitamin K may spontaneously bruise or bleed, often within the first 24 hours or first week of birth. They may have nose or mouth bleeds, or start to bleed from their umbilical stump or other areas of the body, such as the rectum. Babies that experience VKBD during the first week of life are more likely to suffer internal bleeding as well, and approximately one-fifth of those children do not survive.

The anti-vaccine movement could be causing more bad than good

The surge in cases is a suspected aftereffect of the anti-vaccine movement. When parents refuse the vitamin shot, they are asked why, with the reasons reported to the Centers for Disease Control. The top cited reasons for refusal of the injection are: fear of increased leukemia risk, a desire to minimize their infant’s exposure to toxins, and the impression that the shot isn’t effective–all top reasons parents also avoid disease vaccinations for children.

The bottom line, however, is that infants need vitamin K. Without the vitamin injection, newborns are 81 times more likely to develop VKDB than those who receive the shot, though the risk still remains low; approximately 4 to 7 infants out of 100,000.

“We know no matter how healthy the diet, it’s not enough to get the vitamin K to an effective level,” explained Sidonio. “And the oral vitamin K options that we have in the United States are not regulated or FDA approved. It’s clear that the shot is the only reliable option.”

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Experts indicate the fear vitamin injections could be linked to leukemia is an outdated one; numerous studies from around the world have dis-proven this common myth. Just like with the anti-vaccine movement, however, it appears the positive studies gain much less notoriety compared to the doom-and-gloom statistics that originally create widespread concern.