Matt Hancock – Justin Tallis/PA Wire
Free Vitamin D supplements will be delivered to almost three million clinically vulnerable people and care home residents, in order to help protect them during the pandemic.
The stocks are to be sent out by the Government, after the Health Secretary called for a further review of the evidence about whether the “sunshine vitamin” can reduce the risk of dying from Covid.
Under current health advice, everyone in the country is told to consider taking Vitamin D, amid concerns that lockdowns have deprived many of sunshine, which is key to its production.
On Saturday health officials will target efforts on protecting the most vulnerable, with free supplies aimed at boosting bone and muscle health.
While a number of studies have suggested that the vitamin may also reduce mortality from Covid, reviews by health officials have suggested there is insufficient evidence.
But the Health Secretary has said there was “no downside” to taking the daily supplement, and has instructed Public Health England (PHE) to look at the matter again, which will report back later this year.
While deliveries to vulnerable people will start in January, those able to purchase supplements in the meantime should do so, officials said.
Matt Hancock said: “Because of the incredible sacrifices made by the British people to control the virus, many of us have spent more time indoors this year and could be deficient in Vitamin D.
“The Government is taking action to ensure vulnerable individuals can access a free supply to last them through the darker winter months. This will support their general health, keep their bones and muscles healthy and crucially reduce the pressure on our NHS.
“A number of studies indicate Vitamin D might have a positive impact in protecting against Covid-19,” said Mr Hancock, who said he had asked PHE and the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence to “re-review” existing evidence in order to ensure every “potential opportunity” to beat the virus was taken.
Findings will be published towards the end of the year.
Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE, said: “Vitamin D is important for our bone and muscle health.
“We advise that everyone, particularly the elderly, those who don’t get outside and those with dark skin, takes a Vitamin D supplement containing 10 micrograms (400IU) every day.
“This year, the advice is more important than ever with more people spending more time inside, which is why the Government will be helping the clinically extremely vulnerable to get Vitamin D.”
The PHE advice is for everybody to take 10 micrograms (400 IU) of Vitamin D a day between October and early March to keep bones and muscles healthy.
Individuals on the Government’s clinically extremely vulnerable list will receive a letter inviting them to “opt in” for a supply to be delivered directly to their homes.
This includes those being treated for some types of cancer, those who are immunosuppressed or suffering from conditions such as cystic fibrosis.
Deliveries will be free of charge, starting in January, and will provide four months’ worth of supplements to last people through the winter months.
Stocks will also be sent to care home residents in England, following a similar measure deployed by the Scottish government.
The vitamin, produced naturally by the body when it comes into contact with the sun, helps the body to maintain normal levels of calcium and phosphate, keeping bones, teeth and muscles healthy.
Scientists have speculated that the disproportionately high toll from the virus suffered by people from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities may be partly down to endemic low levels of Vitamin D.
One analysis by Ben Gurion University, in Israel, involving around 1.3 million participants, suggested that Vitamin D supplementation could cut the risk of death from Covid-19 in some groups by as much as half.