Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 51 Number 1, January 16, 2021 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Vitamin D and Covid-19

Government's Dereliction of Duty and Care

An adjournment debate took place in the House of Commons on January 14 on the issue of the effectiveness of Vitamin D in preventing and ameliorating Covid-19. An adjournment debate is a device whereby on a formal motion that the House adjourns, an MP can secure a debate, often sparsely attended, on a question that is of importance to them or their constituents. The debate on January 14 was secured by Conservative MP David Davis, who presented a serious and well-argued case that there is good reason to believe that vitamin D supplementation will help reduce mortality from Covid-19 and cut susceptibility to infection. "It will save lives, improve population immunity, and help reduce the medical and economic impact as we continue the universal roll-out of vaccines," he said. "There is no more time to waste. The time to act is now," he concluded, urging the government to provide Vitamin D supplements of at least 4,000 IU (international units) per day, the equivalent of 100 micrograms, and to a significant proportion of the population, not just to the clinically extremely vulnerable.

It is reprehensible that it has taken this long for it to be discussed in Parliament, and then only as an adjournment debate. In reply to David Davis, Jo Churchill, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care, refused to concede that there were no down-sides to such a course of action, and condescendingly accused the MP of wanting to move at pace, whereas the government is "nudging along and some progress has been made".

The reply of Jo Churchill typifies the government's dereliction of duty and care. It has been more and more widely reported since at least April 2020 that a high dose of Vitamin D can be used to guard against the ravages of Covid-19. On January 10, the Guardian Observer reported: "In April [2020], dozens of doctors wrote to the British Medical Journal describing the correction of vitamin D deficiencies as 'a safe, simple step' that 'convincingly holds out a potential, significant, feasible Covid-19 mitigation remedy'. In the Newcastle hospitals, patients found to be vitamin D-deficient were given extremely high oral doses of the nutrient, often up to 750 times the daily measure recommended by Public Health England. In July, clinicians wrote to the journal Clinical Endocrinology to share their initial outcomes. Of the first 134 coronavirus patients given vitamin D, 94 had been discharged, 24 were still receiving inpatient care, and 16 had died. The clinicians hadn't cl early associated vitamin D levels with overall death rates, but only three patients with high levels of the nutrient died, and all of them were frail and in their 90s. Increasingly, others followed the lead of the Newcastle doctors and began taking the vitamin themselves." [1]

This corroborates a Spanish study that David Davis quoted. He said: "As the death rate per million climbs month by month, from 175 in November to 324 now, the strategy certainly is not working as well as we would hope. Compare that with the province of Andalusia, a Spanish province of more than 8 million people. It started in November with a situation worse than ours - 189 deaths per million as against 175 - but which cut its death rate by at least two thirds while ours was doubling. That reduction, from between 50 and 70 deaths a day in November to between five and 15 deaths a day currently, started immediately after it initiated a programme of issuing calcifediol, the fast-acting high potency form of vitamin D, to at risk groups including care home residents."

Furthermore, he said: "In September 2020, the results of the world's first randomised control trial - the gold standard of medical research - on vitamin D and Covid-19 were published. The trial, conducted in the south of Spain at a hospital in Córdoba, involved 76 patients suffering from covid-19 sufficiently badly to have been hospitalised. Fifty of the patients were given vitamin D and the remaining 26 were not. Half of those not given vitamin D became so ill that they needed to be put in intensive care. By comparison, only one person of the 50 given vitamin D required ICU admission - just one. To put it another way, the use of vitamin D seemed to reduce a patient's risk of needing intensive care twenty-fivefold."

The recommendation of the doctors in the Newcastle study, to treat patients in hospital informally who had vitamin D deficiency, which is rife amongst older people, was at the time turned down by government scientific advisers. "Not enough evidence," it was said. Again, the advice had been that the treatment could do no harm and could only do good. Yet the government blames the people at every stage for allegedly not obeying the so-called lockdown when they travel more than five miles to support relatives, yet it is permissible to travel all over the world in "business class" flights. This is a lockdown which is becoming enforced by police powers, when at the same time universal health care is suspended.

This is not to diminish the real dangers of Covid-19, nor simply resort to pragmatism. It is to underline the irresponsibility of the government and that far from being cautious it is being reckless, while working people everywhere are solving the problems presented by the virus to the functioning of society themselves.



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