OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- One shot given to babies at birth is not a vaccine. Yet some parents are lumping it into that category and refusing it for their newborns. It's a shot of vitamin K. Doctors and nurses are concerned that parents who opt out are putting their babies at risk of internal bleeding and even death.
Just a few hours after arrival, Foster Polk will get his first shot at Overland Park Regional Medical Center. The dose of vitamin K has routinely been given to newborns for more than 50 years.
"It's not a vaccination. It's a vitamin, so we don't mind giving it to our kids. We do delayed vaccination, but the vitamin K shot is the one we do give in the hospital," said Kelli Polk, Foster's mother.
But among parents who are resisting vaccination, some are refusing all shots, even vitamin K.
"I have had a few refuse it or at least question why they're giving it or ask for alternatives," said Michaela Galimba, a certified nurse midwife at Overland Park Regional.
Galimba says that was before birth and she was able to change their minds by explaining that babies need the shot right after birth since they're deficient in vitamin K. The vitamin is vital for blood to clot. Without it?
"They can have intestinal bleeding, even brain injury and death," said Galimba.
At Nationwide Children's Hospital in Ohio, the emergency room staff recently saw a fussy 10-week-old who had flecks of blood in his diaper.
"We noticed the baby was really pale and we did some blood work and found out the baby was actually bleeding internally into its brain," said Dr. Karyn Kassis.
The baby had not received the vitamin K shot. After getting one, the baby recovered. The case study was published in the Journal of Emergency Medicine. In 2013, four Tennessee babies who had not had the shot had internal bleeding. The Centers for Disease Control says health care providers should talk with moms-to-be about the benefits of the dose at birth.
"We're more than okay giving him extra vitamins," said Kelli Polk.
The CDC found that in one Nashville hospital, more than three percent of newborns were not getting the shot. It was much higher in birthing centers. Twenty-eight percent were not getting it.