The Committee heard evidence that Vitamin D deficiency is prevalent across the population and the report it published yesterday (April 7th) recommends the public health measures needed to address that deficiency and reduce the risk of respiratory and other illnesses such as osteoporosis.
The report makes four recommendations for new measures which should be in place from January 2022: Daily Vitamin D supplementation of 20-25µg/day should be recommended to the entire adult population with higher doses recommended for vulnerable groups; A public health policy, which promotes better knowledge of the benefits of Vitamin D, should be developed; Reducing the cost of Vitamin D supplementation should be considered, through the reduction of the current VAT rate; and people should be offered Vitamin D supplements at Covid-19 test centres.
The report states as the State emerges from the third wave of the virus there must be a greater focus on preventative public health measures.
"One of the public health measures that the Committee wants the health authorities to address is the role of Vitamin D and the best way in which the known, widespread deficiency of Vitamin D can be addressed. In this short report, the Committee highlights the issues that need to be addressed. It also draws upon the experience of other countries with respect to Vitamin D, primarily Finland, which had a more positive outcome in terms of the impact of Covid-19 upon the general population."
The report goes on to says that the Committee has been made aware of a wide range of studies into the link between Vitamin D and COVID-19, adding: "While large, well-designed, placebo-controlled randomised control trials of vitamin D supplementation against Covid-19 are awaited, the evidence from existing studies in this area already meets the Bradford-Hill criteria for causality.
"These findings strongly support a causal relationship between low vitamin D status and increased risk and severity of Covid-19 infection. Irrespective of Covid-19, Vitamin D supplementation is an essential public health measure required to address the widespread deficiency noted across the Irish population and the significant adverse health effects of this deficiency."
Welcoming the publication of the report, health committee chairman Seán Crowe TD said: “As we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, international studies, and the experience of Finland in particular, show just how effective daily Vitamin D supplementation can be when it is implemented as part of an enhanced public health policy. This supplementation represents a safe, practical, and effective means of protecting human health.
“The State needs to review preventative measures that might have led to fewer mortalities and lower morbidity. In that regard, the role of Vitamin D needs to be addressed as part of an enhanced public health policy to protect the population against respiratory infections and other illnesses.“
Explaining the policy recommendations, the report states: "The promotion of Vitamin D supplementation is a cheap and complementary solution that can be quickly and easily implemented. To further reduce the cost of Vitamin D supplements and to promote its uptake, the Government should reconsider the current VAT applied, with a view to either reducing or eliminating it.
"There is a need for a public health policy to address Vitamin D deficiency, to actively promote supplements across the population, to target specific vulnerable groups and to implement the public health recommendations to support the policy. uch a policy should outline the scope available to public health authorities to take control of the dissemination of Vitamin D and to increase public knowledge in order to encourage the uptake of supplements.
"This new policy should be developed in time for consideration as part of Budget 2022 which will be presented to the Dáil in October 2021. In this way, funding of new measures will be in place from January 2022."
Deputy Crowe added: “I commend this report to the Dáil and Seanad and I look forward to the development of this new public health policy this year.”
The Committee met with experts from the Covit-D Consortium; Dr. Daniel McCartney, Professor Rose Anne Kenny; Professor James Bernard Walsh; Professor John Faul and Dr. Martin Healy on this issue on 23rd February 2021 in preparation for the report.
Read the full report.