The government’s Department of Health and Social Care announces plan to offer free vitamin D supplements to 2.7 million vulnerable individuals in England.
Deliveries of vitamin D supplements will be made to clinically extremely vulnerable people and care home residents this winter.
All care homes will automatically receive provisions for their residents, while individuals on the clinically extremely vulnerable list will receive a letter inviting them to opt in for a supply to be delivered directly to their homes. The deliveries will start in January 2021 and will contain a four- month supply of supplements to last people through the remaining winter months.
The Vitamin D supplements will help to support general health and well-being, particularly bone and muscle health. The use of supplements will be especially important this year, as vulnerable and elderly people are at higher risk of Vitamin D deficiency after spending more time indoors due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Evidence of the link of vitamin D to COVID-19 is still being researched with larger scale trials needed. In the meantime, the Secretary of State has asked the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and Public Health England (PHE) to re-review the existing evidence. The government will publish its findings towards the end of the year.
Secretary of State for Health and Social Care 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. I have asked NICE and PHE to re-review the existing evidence on the link between COVID-19 and vitamin D to ensure we explore every potential opportunity to beat this virus.”
Public Health England (PHE) recommends that everybody takes 10 micrograms (400 IU) of vitamin D supplements a day between October and early March to keep bones and muscles healthy. It also recommends that individuals at risk of not having enough vitamin D take a supplement all year round.
Vitamin D supplements are available to purchase from supermarkets, pharmacies and other retailers.
PHE advises that anyone who is able to purchase vitamin D starts taking supplements now, even if individuals are eligible to receive a free supply later this year.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) will provide further information and guidance for all nursing and residential care home providers in the coming weeks.