Fact Check

Does Vitamin K 'Not Exist' Even Though It's Given to Infants at Birth?

Though less publicized than vaccine refusal, refusing vitamin-K supplementation for babies based on confused science is also on the rise.

Published Jun 19, 2023

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Vitamin K does not exist.

For over 60 years, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended vitamin K injections for newborn babies. Vitamin K, which helps blood clot, exists at low levels in newborn children and puts them at risk of sometimes fatal bleeding — a condition known as Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding (VKDB). As explained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "The vitamin K given at birth provides protection against bleeding that could occur because of low levels of this essential vitamin."   

In June 2023, several claims about the purported evils of such supplementation — described by some observers as an increasing trend in the health misinformation space — garnered new attention

One of the more perplexing assertions to come to light in this round of viral misinformation was the claim that "Vitamin K does not exist." While past claims leveled against vitamin K injections have focused on incorrect information about their safety, ingredients, or potential side effects, several online commentators this time around asserted or suggested that vitamin K was simply not real, or, at the very least, not a vitamin: 

The basis for this assertion appears at least in some cases to stem from the conflation of vitamin K — whose name stems from the German word for coagulation "koagulation" — and the element potassium, which has an atomic symbol of "K." 

Vitamin K is not potassium. Vitamin K, first described in 1927, is a fat-soluble vitamin encompassing several chemically similar molecules. One common source stems from leafy greens and vegetables, and another stems from some animal and fermented foods.  

Another interpretation of "Vitamin K does not exist" is the conclusion that the chemicals, while real, do not merit vitamin status. Vitamins, in general terms, are chemicals "that the body needs in small amounts to function and stay healthy." Such a framing of vitamin K as an invention of medical science plays into conspiratorial notions of Big Pharma creating medical conditions or supplements for profit:

This is a hard argument to square, given the long period of time in which medical science has been aware of both vitamin K and its relationship to blood clotting. As an observational study of infants in the British Isles published in the journal BMJ in 1991 demonstrated, "Infants who do not receive a vitamin K shot at birth are 81 times more likely to develop late VKDB than infants who do receive a vitamin K shot at birth."

Because vitamin K exists, we therefore rate this claim as "false."


CDC. "FAQs About Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding | CDC." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 19 Dec. 2019, https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/vitamink/faqs.html.

---. "What Is Vitamin K Deficiency Bleeding? | CDC." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 Feb. 2023, https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/vitamink/facts.html.

Ferland, Guylaine. "The Discovery of Vitamin K and Its Clinical Applications." Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism, vol. 61, no. 3, 2012, pp. 213–18. PubMed, https://doi.org/10.1159/000343108.

HSPS Harvard. Vitamin K. 18 Sept. 2012, https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamin-k/.

McNinch, A. W., and J. H. Tripp. "Haemorrhagic Disease of the Newborn in the British Isles: Two Year Prospective Study." British Medical Journal, vol. 303, no. 6810, Nov. 1991, pp. 1105–09. www.bmj.com, https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.303.6810.1105.

Pearson, Rachel. "Among the Vitamin K 'Anti-Vaxxers' | Rachel Pearson." The New York Review of Books, https://www.nybooks.com/online/2019/01/31/among-the-vitamin-k-anti-vaxxers/. Accessed 19 June 2023.

"Post Misleads on Vitamin K Shot Ingredient, Safety." AP NEWS, 5 May 2023, https://apnews.com/article/fact-check-vitamin-k-shot-benzyl-alcohol-safety-841112500157.

"Vitamin." Cancer.Gov, 2 Feb. 2011, https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/vitamin.

Alex Kasprak is an investigative journalist and science writer reporting on scientific misinformation, online fraud, and financial crime.

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