Second set of parents refuse vaccinated donor blood for toddler needing heart surgery

  • 14/12/2022

Two parents are trying to raise funds to fly their child overseas for urgent heart surgery because they only want to use unvaccinated donor blood.

It comes after a similar high-profile case which saw Health New Zealand be granted guardianship of a sick four-month-old baby last week. 

The toddler, almost two years old, at the centre of the new dispute has hypoplastic left heart syndrome which means the left side of her heart is underdeveloped. She has already had four open heart operations, her mother was quoted saying on a fundraising page.

She needs urgent heart surgery but her family are now fundraising to send her to India to receive treatment because they were denied the guaranteed usage of un-vaccinated donor blood.

Last week, a judge ruled in favour of Te Whatu Ora Health New Zealand's application to put guardianship of a sick four-month-old baby into the court to allow the child's heart surgery to go ahead under the usual process.  

The baby's parents said they want the surgical procedure to go ahead, but they didn't want it to happen with blood donations from donors who've been vaccinated against COVID-19.

However, the baby's doctors said there was no scientific evidence that vaccinated blood poses a risk.

The case sparked a protest outside the court against the decision.

On a Givealittle post the parents hoping to fly their child to Idia said were hopeful the sick baby's parents' public plea would pave the pathway to receive directed blood donation, however, that was not the case.

The Givealittle page is still pending moderation and a spokesperson from the platform told Newshub they were seeking more information from the page creator before verifying the page.

"Obviously what [the child's] parents really want is surgery in New Zealand Starship Hospital with the surgeon they know and trust," the page, which was set up by advocates for the family, said. 

But the refusal of allowing direct donor blood from an unvaccinated person has caused the parents to seek surgery elsewhere, the page said.

"We shall send her overseas where her and her parents will get the care and respect for her rights we all deserve. The surgeon is waiting and has promised Directed Donor Blood and first-class blood and surgery."

However, the page doesn't give any details about the Indian hospital or surgeon the family are planning to go to. 

Auckland University's Immunisation Advisory Centre medical director Professor Nikki Turner told The Project in reference to the sick four-month-old baby's case that taking blood from a non-vaccinated person to give to the child is not that simple. 

"We need to offer this baby safe, quality blood product. We can't just give the baby any blood off the street," Prof Turner said.

She said doing a one-off emergency screening to get blood from someone who is unvaccinated for the baby would open up a whole other can of worms. 

"Even if we could do that, then what if people think there is a problem and that's why we did it, so a hundred people ask us to do that and then 200 people, and we did it for no logical reason. We would be sort of opening up a problem that wasn't a problem," Prof Turner said.

Speaking with Newshub Late on Wednesday, haematologist and transfusion medicine specialist at the University of Otago Dr Jim Faed said there are several reasons why asking for specific blood donors causes issues.

"It's strongly discouraged for multiple reasons. Firstly for safety reasons - the selected blood donors are always going to be safer than someone who feels, 'I could do that' and doesn't know all of the issues that lie behind the safety that is achieved with blood transfusion in New Zealand," Dr Faed said.

"There is a lot in donor screening that needs to be done carefully, the testing needs to be done carefully. All that can be done either way but if we think about the screening questions there are always concerns a person might be tempted to give a different answer." 

Newshub contacted the mother of the toddler but did not receive a reply. 

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