The government will be supplying more than 2.5 million vulnerable people across England with free vitamin D supplements for the winter.
The vitamin D supplements are designed to support general wellness, in particular bone and muscle health. This is especially important this year because, overall, individuals will have spent less time outside and more time in their homes due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The advice from Public Health England (PHE) explains that everyone should take 10 micrograms (400IU) of vitamin D per day between October and early March to keep bones and muscles healthy.
“People who are more at risk of not having enough vitamin D [should] take a vitamin D supplement all year round,” the government says.
Vitamin D supplements are also available at most supermarkets and pharmacies for purchase.
Who is eligible for free vitamin D?
All care homes will automatically receive a provision for their residents, and individuals who are on the clinically extremely vulnerable list.
Adults with the following conditions are automatically deemed clinically extremely vulnerable:
Solid organ transplant recipientsPeople with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapyPeople with lung cancer who are undergoing radical radiotherapyPeople with cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatmentPeople having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancerPeople having other targeted cancer treatments that can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitorsPeople who have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last six months or who are still taking immunosuppression drugsThose with severe respiratory conditions including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)Those with rare diseases that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), homozygous sickle cell disease)Those on immunosuppression therapies sufficient to significantly increase risk of infectionAdults with Down’s syndromeAdults on dialysis or with chronic kidney disease (stage five)Pregnant women with significant heart disease, congenital or acquiredOther people who have also been classed as clinically extremely vulnerable, based on clinical judgement and an assessment of their needs. GPs and hospital clinicians have been provided with guidance to support these conditions
How to claim
Those who qualify for the supply will receive a letter inviting them to opt in for a supply of the vitamins 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.
The Department of Health and Social Care will be providing further information and guidance for all nursing and residential care home providers in the coming weeks.
The government also states, “Anyone who is able to purchase a vitamin D supplement and start taking them now is advised to do so, even if you are also eligible for a delivery later in the year.”
‘Reduce pressure on the NHS’
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said, “Because of the incredible sacrifice 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, said, “Vitamin D is important for our bone and muscle health.
“We advise that everyone, particularly the elderly, those who don’t get outside and those with dark skin, takes a vitamin D supplement containing 10 micrograms (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.”