- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
Free supplies of vitamin D will be delivered to more than two million clinically vulnerable people and care home residents over the winter amid growing optimism about the role of the supplement in cutting the risk of death from Covid-19.
Ministers are drawing up plans for four-month supplies of the vitamin to be delivered directly to care home residents in England and those deemed to be clinically extremely vulnerable. The move follows a similar move by the Scottish Government.
Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, is said to be seeking to act in light of emerging evidence about Vitamin D, while Boris Johnson told MPs last week that "we are indeed looking at the possible beneficial effects of vitamin D, and ... we will be updating the House shortly".
The Government is expected to commission clinical trials to further examine the link between Covid-19 and vitamin D deficiency. A number of studies have indicated that poor vitamin D levels are associated with a higher risk of death from coronavirus.
The vitamin helps the body maintain normal levels of calcium and phosphate, keeping bones, teeth and muscles healthy. It is produced naturally by the body when it comes into contact with the sun.
From next month, vitamin D supplements will be delivered to more than two million clinically extremely vulnerable people along with all care home residents, across England. The supplies are intended to last throughout the winter, when the NHS already recommends that people should consider taking the vitamin.
A senior Government source said: "We are going to make sure those most in need of vitamin D can access a free supply over the winter months. Some studies suggest Vitamin D supplementation could have a positive impact for people suffering with Covid-19."
In June, a formal review by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (Nice) concluded there was insufficient evidence to recommend that vitamin D protects against the virus.
However, Mr Hancock told MPs last month that more studies had since come to light, saying: "I have asked the scientists to look once again at the impact of vitamin D on resistance and immunity. There has been some updated evidence that has come to light in the past few weeks, and I want to ensure that it is fully taken into account."
MPs including the former Brexit secretary David Davis have been calling for the Government to consider distributing vitamin D to vulnerable people in England.
Speaking during Prime Minister's Questions last week, Mr Davis said: "The Scottish Government are sending four months supply of vitamin D to everybody who shielded in Scotland. Given that it is low cost and there is no medical downside, will our Government consider the same approach in England?"
Mr Johnson replied: "He is entirely right that we are indeed looking at the possible beneficial effects of vitamin D."
Some 2.2 million people classed as "extremely vulnerable" to Covid have been issued with guidance on protecting themselves in the coming months after the Government dropped the formal shielding scheme deployed during the first wave.
The group includes those undergoing treatment for cancer and those who are immunosuppressed or suffering from conditions such as cystic fibrosis.
Following the first national lockdown, Public Health England's chief nutritionist, Dr Alison Tedstone, recommended that everyone take the "sunshine supplement" due to spending so much time in doors.
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 of the studies understood to be under consideration by health officials is an analysis by Ben Gurion University, involving around 1.3 million participants, which suggested that vitamin D supplementation can cut the risk of death from Covid-19 in some groups by as much as half.
The Israeli team also came across findings appearing to suggest that vitamin D taken in liquid form, rather than tablets, produced the protective effect.