The Department of Health and Social Care has announced that over 2.7 million at-risk individuals across England are to be offered a free supply of vitamin D to see them through the winter months.

Care homes will automatically receive a supply for their residents and individuals on the clinically extremely vulnerable list will be invited to opt in for a free-of-charge delivery of the vitamin direct to their homes. The deliveries, which begin in January, will provide four months’ worth of supplements.

“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,” says Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. “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.”

A number of studies indicate vitamin D might have a positive impact in protecting against COVID-19

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, adds: “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.”

The Government is advising anyone who is able to buy the vitamin to do so now and start supplementation immediately, even if they are eligible for a delivery at the beginning of next year.

Commenting on behalf of the health food industry, Graham Keen, executive director of the Health Food Manufacturers’ Association (HFMA) says: “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 vitamin D of the highest quality.”