A total of seven infants between 7 weeks and 20 weeks old were diagnosed with a rare bleeding disorder in Tennessee after parents refused vitamin K injections at birth.
Vitamin K deficiency bleeding usually affects fewer than one in 100,000 newborns, but Vanderbilt doctors told The Tennessean that cases are on the rise because of the anti-vaccine movement.
Vitamin K is responsible for making the proteins to clot blood. Vitamin K shots have been given to babies since 1961 because blood clotting efficiency in newborns is less than 60 percent that of adult values. Furthermore, human breast milk contains far less vitamin K than formula-derived milk.
"We are probably just seeing the tip of the iceberg, and I worry that people are missing these cases often and not considering this diagnosis when presented with a sick infant," said Dr. Robert Sidonio Jr. with Vanderbilt hospital.
Mark and Melissa Knotowicz declined shots for their twins last summer because they heard that a preservative in the shot could lead to childhood leukemia. Vanderbilt physicians say an old, debunked study linked the two, but no follow-up studies could replicate those results.
One of the twins became sick and a pediatrician suspected blood poisoning until he was taken to the ER at Vanderbilt children’s hospital, where doctors asked if he has ever had the shot.
CT scans showed the infant suffered multiple brain bleeds. After a week in the hospital, the boy is undergoing physical therapy for neuromuscular development issues.
The other twin was diagnosed with asymptomatic vitamin K deficiency. Both have since been given vitamin K shots.
Mark Knotowicz said staff didn’t adequately warn him of the risks of refusing the shot when the twins were born.