Vaccination Information Service

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Vitamin K

Is this really safe and necessary? 

Bronwyn Hancock October 2003

The reason given for administration of Vitamin K is to prevent haemorrhagic disease in newborns. However consider the following points:

The form of Vitamin K injected

         The body does not readily utilise synthetic vitamins and minerals. The vitamin K administered by hospitals to newborns is the synthetic phytonadione. The natural forms of vitamin K that are found in many foods, particularly in vegetables such as collard greens, spinach, broccoli, asparagus, brussels sprouts and salad greens, are a different form they are called phylloquinone or menaquinone.  Certain bacteria in the intestinal tract also produce menaquinones.

         Apart from its synthetic nature, it is based on plant Vitamin K and injected. The body utilises vitamins and minerals that are found in plants and creates the human form it needs, but this is after they go through the digestion process, which obviously does not occur with injections.

         "Little is known about the metabolic fate of vitamin K. Almost no free unmetabolised vitamin K appears in bile or urine," states both the 1988 and 1998 Physician's Desk Reference (PDR). "This is especially important due to the fact that it is a fat-soluble vitamin and therefore can accumulate in the body," wrote Vitamin K Resources (VKR) in the extremely well-documented and footnoted 1999 article, Intramuscular Vitamin K Injection: Is K OK?he amount of Vitamin K administered

Toxic ingredients accompanying the Vitamin K

         The vitamin K injections administered by hospitals and manufactured by Merck and Roche and Abbott contain benzyl alcohol as a preservative. The 1989 PDR states that, "there is no evidence to suggest that the small amount of benzyl alcohol contained in AquaMEPHYTON (Merck's vitamin K injection product), when used as recommended, is associated with toxicity." Interestingly, in November 1988, the French medical journal, Dev Pharmacol Ther, published a paper regarding benzyl alcohol metabolism and elimination in babies. The report stated that "...we cannot directly answer the issue of safety of 'low doses' of benzyl alcohol as found in some medications administered to neonates. This study confirms the immaturity of the benzoic acid detoxification process in premature newborns."

         Roche's vitamin K product KONAKION contains ingredients such as phenol (carbolic acid-a poisonous substance distilled from coal tar), propylene glycol (derived from petroleum and used as an antifreeze and in hydraulic brake fluid) and acetic acid (an astringent antimicrobial agent that may drastically reduce the amount of natural vitamin K that would have otherwise been produced in the digestive tract). As reported in the PDR and as published in the IM vitamin K packet inserts for Merck, Roche and Abbott, "Studies of carcinogenicity, mutagenesis or impairment of fertility have not been conducted with Vitamin K1 Injection (Phytonadione Injection, USP)."

         The Vitamin K injection can be in a base of polyethoxylated castor oil. 

         Vitamin K injections also contain hydrochloric acid and lecithin.


Effects of Vitamin K administration

         The manufacturers warn on the product insert: "Severe reactions, including fatalities, have occurred during and immediately after intravenous injection of phytonadione even when precautions have been taken to dilute the vitamin and avoid rapid infusion..."

         The Vitamin K shot has been linked to leukaemia, including acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, which is characterized by an increased number of white corpuscles in the blood, and accounts for about 85 percent of childhood leukaemia. Research carried out by Dr. Louise Parker, of the Sir James Spence Institute of Child Health in Newcastle upon Tyne, produced the most startling results. Dr. Louise Parker was quoted in the British Medical Journal in 1998 as stating, "It is not possible, on the basis of currently published evidence, to refute the suggestion that neonatal IM vitamin K administration increases the risk of early childhood leukemia.".

The British Journal of Cancer published "Factors associated with childhood cancer" by J. Golding, et al, in 1990. The report indicated that universally administered IM vitamin K injections significantly increase our children's chances of developing childhood cancer. A follow-up study published two years later in the British Medical Journal (Golding J, Paterson K, Greenwood R, Mott M. Intramuscular vitamin K and childhood cancer. BMJ 1992; 305:341-346.) reinforced the findings of the previous study. The authors' comments, in keeping with scientific style, are conservatively stated, but parents who are concerned about the health of their babies will read "danger" between the following lines: "The only two studies so far to have examined the relation between childhood cancer and intramuscular vitamin K have shown similar results and the relation is biologically plausible. The prophylactic benefits against haemorrhagic disease are unlikely to exceed the potential adverse effects from intramuscular vitamin K..."

The chance of your child developing leukaemia from the Vitamin K shot is estimated to be about one in 500 (MIDIRS Midwifery Digest, Vol 2 #3, September 1992)

         Animal studies have linked large doses of vitamin K to a variety of conditions that include anaemia, liver damage, kidney damage and death.

         Interestingly the common problem that occurs these days of jaundice in newborns has only been reported since the introduction of Vitamin K administration.

         According to the product insert, adverse reactions include haemolysis (or hemolysis - American spelling) (meaning breakdown of red blood cells), haemolytic anaemia (a disorder characterised by chronic premature destruction of red blood cells), hyperbilirubinemia (too much bilirubin in blood) and jaundice (yellow skin and eyes resulting from hyperbilirubinemia), and allergic reactions include face flushing, gastrointestinal upset, rash, redness, pain or swelling at injection site and itching skin. It also warns that large enough doses can cause brain damage in infants and/or impairment to liver function. Hypoxia has also been published as having occurred in infants after Vitamin K administration.


The necessity (or lack of necessity) for administration of Vitamin K

         The bleeding condition the Vitamin K shot is supposed to prevent occurs at a rate that is far lower (in a non-Vitamin K injected child) than the rate of occurrence of leukaemia. The haemorrhaging condition may occur in approximately 1 in 10,000 live births

         The condition also will not necessarily be prevented by Vitamin K because it can be caused by other factors than a lack of Vitamin K (e.g. See Arch Dis Child 1999; 81:278 (September)). In fact vaccination is a major cause of haemorrhaging.

         The bacteria that should quickly colonise the gut (in a baby who is breastfed and not given antibiotics directly or as one of the ingredients in vaccines, including most likely the Hepatitis B vaccine) produces Vitamin K anyway, as mentioned above.

         As early as April 17, 1977, an article in one of the world's most esteemed medical journals, the Lancet, discredited the policy of routine vitamin K injections. "We conclude that healthy babies, contrary to current beliefs, are not likely to have a vitamin K deficiency... the administration of vitamin K is not supported by our findings..." Van Doorm et al stated in the Lancet article. VKR cited 21 peer-reviewed reports that had been published in prominent medical journals. All of them concur that policies that mandate the universal injection of newborn babies are not based on sound science. There has been much peer-reviewed evidence generated which questions the efficacy of routine vitamin K injections as sound public health policy.

         Naturopathic physicians and others who successfully adhere to a more natural approach to healthcare advocate that high-risk mothers should increase the amount of vitamin K available to the foetus, and then the breastfeeding infant, by eating adequate amounts of green leafy vegetables and other foods high in Vitamin K, such as alfalfa, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, spinach, turnip greens, asparagus, oats and green tea.

         Commonsensically, VKR poses the question, " could God (or nature) have erred so badly as to give all newborn babies only an infinitesimal fraction of their required vitamin K? Surely the human race could not have survived to this point if all newborns were born with this deficiency and none being administered at birth until very recently." So ironically, when a Vitamin K deficiency does occur the probable cause(s) would be some other artificial, unnecessary interference, which just so happens to be something that one might say is fairly characteristic of modern medical treatments.


Alternative to Vitamin K administration

         The main way Mother Nature provides Vitamin K to a newborn is that there is some in breast milk but also then once the baby starts breastfeeding, the baby's own gut flora immediately start proliferating and producing it. The administration of antibiotics, any vaccines or other medication can interfere with the normal proliferation of gut flora.


For more on Vitamin K, there is a very well referenced article here:



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