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New Zealand takes custody of baby whose parents refused ‘vaccinated blood’

Supporters of the parents who refused transfusions for their baby unless the blood came from donors who had not been vaccinated against the novel coronavirus demonstrate outside the High Court in Auckland, New Zealand, on Tuesday. (Michael Craig/New Zealand Herald/AP)

New Zealand’s High Court on Wednesday took custody of an infant whose parents insisted that he receive blood only from donors who had not been vaccinated against the novel coronavirus, a demand the court said prevented doctors from performing lifesaving surgery.

The 6-month-old boy, referred to as “Baby W” in court filings, has been diagnosed with a congenital heart defect and needs surgery to survive, according to the court order.

“He remains in urgent need of an operation, and every day that the operation is delayed his heart is under strain,” the order said, citing one of his doctors.

Baby W’s parents, Cole Reeves and Samantha Savage, were concerned that it would not be safe for him to receive a transfusion “from a COVID-19 mRNA vaccinated blood donor,” a court filing said, and had insisted that he could be operated on only if the blood used in the surgery came from unvaccinated donors. Doctors said that using blood donated from outside the normal channels was “impractical” for the situation and that doing the surgery without donated blood was “not an available option.”

With time running out and the parents still objecting, Judge Ian Gault ruled that it was “in Baby W’s best interests” for the court to take custody of him temporarily until the surgery could be completed.

Baby W was placed under the guardianship of the court starting Wednesday until he recovers from surgery, but no later than the end of January. The surgery, which is set for Friday morning, is estimated to take 48 hours to complete. Two doctors were appointed as Baby W’s legal representatives for the purpose of consenting to surgery, and Reeves and Savage were appointed as his representatives for “all other purposes.” Doctors said they would “take the parents’ views into consideration” whenever possible — as long as doing so would not compromise “Baby W’s interests.”

The decision followed a tense period of several weeks fraught with baseless claims, according to the order.

After Baby W underwent a procedure in late October, his parents “were distressed” when they learned that he had had to receive a “top up” of blood. They requested that in the future, an alternative be found, as they did not want their child to receive “any blood other than blood that did not contain the Pfizer vaccine, mRNA, the spike protein or any other associated contaminants,” the order said.

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Reeves and Savage later told health-care workers at Starship Children’s Hospital in Auckland that they believed spike proteins in the blood of people who had received mRNA vaccines — such as the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines — were “causing unexpected deaths relating to transfusions.”

A meeting between Baby W’s parents and doctors in November was “hijacked by the parents’ support person” who spewed “her theory about conspiracies,” according to the order. The person claimed that infants who had received transfusions had died at Starship hospital.

Two days earlier, doctors had met with Savage to explain “that they could not spend more time considering” their requests that Baby W receive blood from special donors and that the parents would need to come to a decision whether to consent to the surgery. Savage “became extremely upset,” according to the order, and accused the doctors of “cornering her without any support present.”

Gault, the judge, said in a court filing Thursday evening that Reeves and Savage also had obstructed the medical staff’s efforts to prepare Baby W for surgery. “You touch our child and we will press criminal charges against you,” they told the staff, according to the filing.

In the filing, Gault wrote that Sue Grey, a representative for the parents, sent the court medical opinions from doctors in Texas and Hawaii, who evaluated Baby W “closely” via Zoom video call and argued that “this is not an urgent situation” and that the surgery should be delayed by a week to “further evaluate other options.”

“It was previously common ground that Baby W needed surgery,” but now the parents were objecting to the surgery and preparations, not just the use of blood transfusions, Gault wrote. The development made it “clearly necessary” for him to order the parents not to interfere, he said.

Reeves and Savage appeared Wednesday on Infowars, the podcast hosted by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who filed for bankruptcy Friday after he was held liable for lies he spread about the 2012 mass killing at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

“It’s so much bigger than us. It’s so much bigger than the baby. God does not want this to be perpetrated on mankind. He doesn’t want this to be perpetrated on the baby,” Reeves said as a baby babbled in the background.

“We stand from a godly point of view that this is not right,” he added.

Grey, a self-proclaimed expert on medicinal cannabis and “biological harm from electromagnetic radiation,” did not respond to a request for comment. Grey has been known to spread baseless claims, especially about coronavirus vaccines. She told CNN in a statement before Gault’s filing Thursday that after “many hours” of consideration, Reeves and Savage had concluded that there was “no time to appeal,” adding that “the priority for the family is to enjoy a peaceful time with their baby until the operation, and to support him through the operation.”

Nikki Turner, the medical director of the Immunization Advisory Center at the University of Auckland, said in an affidavit filed in the case that any components of the vaccine were unlikely to be present in donated blood and that, regardless, they would not be harmful.

Coronavirus vaccines, including those using mRNA technology, have repeatedly been shown to be safe and effective tools to combat severe covid-19.