A New Zealand court has seized custody of a dying baby after his antivaxx parents refused blood transfusions from Covid-vaccinated donors.
The ruling puts the six-month-old boy, named ‘Baby W’ in legal documents, into the guardianship of officials until he has a life-saving heart operation and recovers.
His parents, who remain unnamed per court order, demanded the donated blood needed post-operation come from someone who had not been given an mRNA Covid shot.
Baby W was born with a heart defect that puts him at a much higher risk of cardiac failure and is ‘getting sicker with every heartbeat,’ according to Paul White, the country’s health ministry lawyer.
The news out of New Zealand came on the same day that UK health authorities approved a low-dose formulation of Pfizer’s vaccine for babies six months and up in a move expected to draw controversy.
The parents refused blood transfusions from donors who had received either the Pfizer or the Moderna mRNA vaccines over debunked concerns that it would endanger their baby’s life
The case has galvanized anti-vaxxers in New Zealand who demonstrated in support of Baby W’s parents in Aukland.
Under High Court Judge Ian Gault, Baby W will be paced under partial guardianship of the court, though only with jurisdiction over medical decisions. The parents maintain the power to make all other non-medical decisions for their baby.
Medical specialists at Starship Children’s Hospital and the New Zealand Blood and Organ Service declined their request that the child received blood donated by someone who was not vaccinated against Covid with either Moderna or Pfizer’s shot.
The parents cited fringe theories that say mRNA vaccines are unsafe and alter a person’s DNA. They also said that the vaccine has a risk of causing a heart condition called myocarditis, but the vaccinated person’s donated blood would not affect the baby’s genetic makeup.
The antibodies that the immune system creates following vaccination circulate in the person’s bloodstream, but they are at such a low concentration that it likely has no impact on the person who receives the donation.
The arguments the parents cited for refusing vaccinated blood have been discredited.
Despite various fringe theories claiming the opposite, there is no evidence that blood donations from Covid-vaccinated donors pose any risk to recipients, and blood transfusions from donors who received a vaccination are not associated with a risk of infection.
The New Zealand Blood and Organ Service typically does not take direct blood donations unless in certain circumstances. A patient with a very rare blood type, for instance, may require a direct donor for a life-saving transfusion.
The blood and organ service also does not distinguish between vaccinated and unvaccinated when they receive donations.
The parents voiced concerns about any traces of the vaccines entering their baby’s body through the transfusions.
Roughly a month has passed since Baby W underwent surgery that doctors had hoped would fix the underlying issue and prevent an additional operation.
It required surgeons to place a specific kind of catheter into his pulmonary valve in an attempt to open it up. Now, doctors say a second operation is necessary because the first did not fix the problem.
Baby W’s heart condition means that the valve located between the lower right heart chamber and the pulmonary arteries is too narrow and has stiffened. This reduces blood flow through the valve.
It puts him at greater risk of developing bacterial infections that affect the inner lining of the heart. In severe cases, the condition can cause fatal heart failure.
The fight over blood transfusions came after that late October surgery, which did not fix the problem.
Parents consented to a transfusion but said that all donated blood must come from an unvaccinated source in the future.
Baby W needs additional surgery to survive. His right ventricle will continue to deteriorate without surgery. With it, Baby W has a long-term survival prognosis of more than 90 per cent.
But the parents have held up the urgent surgery for over a month. On November 16 they doubled down on their demands that only Covid vaccine-free blood be used. Health authorities ask parents to submit evidence that convinced them vaccinated blood posed a threat to their baby.
On November 21, the country’s blood bank denied their request again after debunking the materials submitted by the parents. The doctor who would perform the surgery also confirmed that there was no way around it – Baby W would need blood transfusions.
Still, the parents wouldn’t budge. On November 23, the doctors pressed the mother to set a date for the surgery, which Baby W needed to survive. The mother refused and, two days later, did not answer calls from the doctors urging parents to make a decision or else their baby could die.
Baby W’s condition is a congenital heart defect and the exact cause is unclear. The pulmonary valve is made up of three thin pieces of tissue called cusps which open and close with each heartbeat and make sure blood moves in the right direction.
With pulmonary valve stenosis, the cusps are stiff and thick which means the valve can’t fully open. Because the narrowed valve is forced to keep up with blood flow, pressure builds inside the right ventricle, which then strains the heart.
The case galvanized the antivaxx community across New Zealand, which was lauded for its Covid mitigation measures which successfully fended off devastating surges.