News that the Government is to provide free vitamin D supplements to the vulnerable in England has been welcomed by industry.
The Government announced that at-risk groups would receive a free winter supply of vitamin D, with 2.7m vulnerable individuals in England to benefit.
Deliveries will be made to clinically extremely vulnerable and care home residents, with all care homes automatically receiving a provision 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. Deliveries will be free of charge, starting in January, and will provide four months’ worth of supplements to last people through the winter months.
Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, commented: “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.”
Dr Alison Tedstone, Chief Nutritionist at Public Health England, added: “We advise that everyone, particularly the elderly, those who don’t get outside and those with dark skin, takes a vitamin D supplement containing 10mcg (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 Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) says it will provide further information and guidance for all nursing and residential care home providers in the coming weeks.
Following the announcement, Graham Keen, Executive Director of the Health Food Manufacturers’ Association (HFMA), commented: “We warmly welcome this news, having been in discussions with the Department of Health for several weeks about extending the supply of vitamin D supplements to at-risk groups. At a recent meeting with the Public Health Minister, we were able to present the latest research on vitamin D and reassure authorities that the health food industry could deliver this volume of vitamin D at the highest quality.”
Dr Michele Sadler, Scientific Advisor to the HFMA, continued, “Vitamin D is an essential nutrient known for decades to help support the health of the bones and muscles. It is also known that vitamin D has a positive role in immune function, and that deficiency might compromise immune health. This is pivotal at a time when protecting public health is paramount.”