Experts send Vitamin D and Covid-19 open letter to world's governments

By Nikki Hancocks

- Last updated on GMT

Getty | Evgeny Gromov
Getty | Evgeny Gromov

Related tags Vitamin d COVID-19 deficiency

In an open letter being sent to world governments today (21st December), 120 health, science and medical experts from the UK, US, and Europe say there is clear scientific evidence that vitamin D reduces Covid-19 infections, hospitalisations, and deaths.

In the letter (signed by 120 on Friday 18th but rapidly increasing) scientists are calling for immediate, widespread, increased vitamin D intake to 4,000 International Units (IU) per day (or at least 2,000) for healthy adults.

This comes just days after the UK government's health bodies SACN and NICE, denied there is enough evidence to support increasing vitamin D intake for COVID-19 specifically​. 

The scientists involved in the open letter say that global patterns and risk factors for the Covid-19 pandemic and Vitamin D deficiency match "precisely" due to the impact on immune function​. They say that research shows that low vitamin D levels markedly increase the likelihood of COVID-19 infections, hospitalisations and deaths.

The group of scientists are calling for immediate, widespread, increased vitamin D intakes with most signatories declaring that they personally take at least 4,000 International Units (IU) per day - many take more.

They say new mechanisms specific to SARS-Cov-2 are now very well-understood, with the body of evidence including: Multiple biological mechanisms that have been identified showing how vitamin D directly influences COVID-19 outcomes​, ​more than 70 studies showing higher vitamin D levels are associated with lower rates of infection and lower risk of hospitalisation, ICU, or death​, as well as early causal inference studies confirmed by recently published randomised controlled trials​ (RCTs) and quasi-experimental studies.

The campaign’s main organisers are Dr Karl Pfleger​ (USA) and Dr Gareth Davies​ (UK) - both have backgrounds in Artificial Intelligence and Data Science, as well as Medicine. The letter has a growing list of 120 signatories. More than one hundred are medical doctors or PhDs, or both, and more than 60 are professors. Two British MPs - David Davis and Rupa Huq - have also signed the letter. 

Martin Hewison, Professor of Molecular Endocrinology at Birmingham University and one of the world’s leading authorities on Vitamin D, has signed the letter after he strongly criticised SACN and NICE, calling their reports “disappointing”​. 

He reacted to the latest NICE report​, stating: “NICE, SACN and PHE continue to promote the idea of vitamin D 'toxicity', despite no evidence of this in trials where up to 4,000 IU/day vitamin D were used. This obsession has become a major hurdle to better vitamin D health in the UK. Many vitamin D researchers have worked tirelessly over the summer to provide a framework in which vitamin D supplementation could be incorporated into the general strategies being used to defeat COVID-19. NICE, SACN and PHE have rejected this, and their new recommendations provide little or no help at all for the UK public.”

MP David Davis has been a vocal supporter of vitamin D throughout the pandemic. He says, “The evidence from several dozen studies show that vitamin D deficiency/insufficiency is implicated in compromising the body’s immune response to respiratory diseases in general and COVID-19 in particular.

"The likely effect of correcting this deficiency is to reduce the susceptibility to infection and reduce the morbidity and mortality amongst those who are infected by the virus. In the unlikely event that all this evidence is an artefact, the costs and health risks are minimal.

"In the much more likely event that the multiple sources of observational evidence, and the evidence from the growing number of RCTs, show a real causal role of vitamin D in activating and modulating the immune system, it would be irresponsible not to give vitamin D to all the groups who are at risk from COVID-19. It will save lives, improve population immunity, and help reduce the medical and economic impact whilst we await the universal roll out of vaccines.

"Furthermore, if it is to have any material effect the dosage has to be sufficient to correct the existing deficiency, which means up to ten times the UK recommended daily intake.”

Signatory Dr David S Grimes, a retired gastroenterologist, has campaigned to get vitamin D taken more seriously for years. He says: "[NICE and SACN] have ignored past and current research and instead assert ‘there is not adequate evidence to support the use of vitamin D’. They have denied the NHS the use of calcifediol, a rapid-acting form of vitamin D, in the treatment of Covid-19 pneumonia, despite it being shown in one clinical trial to have 96% efficacy. The UK has had 25,000 COVID-19 deaths since this study was published, yet NICE continues to claim ‘not enough evidence’. They have so much to answer for. They’re a national disgrace.”

The letter is published on the web at​.

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