The Department of Health must develop a strategy to increase the knowledge and encourage use of Vitamin D to protect our population in the context of Covid-19 and other illnesses, a Fine Gael TD has said.
Deputy Colm Burke was speaking following the publication today of a report on addressing Vitamin D deficiency as a public health measure in Ireland, which was carried out by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health, of which he is a member.
Deputy Burke, Fine Gael spokesperson on Health, said: “I welcome the recommendations contained in this report, which was based on evidence provided to the Committee by the Covit-D Consortium of doctors.
“Vitamin D is known to assist the immune system in fighting harmful bacteria and viruses, and reduce the risk of Acute Respiratory Infection (ARI). The positive role that Vitamin D can play in the fight against Covid-19 has also been highlighted by several studies and experts over the last year.
“Crucially, the report recommends that daily vitamin D supplements should be taken by the majority of people as a public health measure to reduce respiratory and other illnesses.
“The Committee was also of the view that people attending Covid-19 test centres should be provided with vitamin D supplements when they attend for their test, for the duration of the pandemic. An “opt out” system for the supplement for people in nursing homes, prisons and health care workers is also recommended.
“I have previously called for a widespread public information campaign from the HSE on the use and benefits of Vitamin D supplements, and I am happy that this has been recommended by the Committee. It was noted that a recent campaign promoting Folic Acid supplements for expectant mothers led to a significant increase in uptake, and any campaign should encourage people to engage with their pharmacists and GPs about the use of Vitamin D.
“The use of Vitamin D supplements is all the more important in the Irish population, with 47% of 18-39-year olds, 60% of 50-59-year olds and 64% of over 80s found to be deficient in the vitamin.
“There is now an urgent need for Irish people to take daily supplements due to a lack of sunshine, and people increasingly staying indoors during Covid, coupled with dietary deficiencies.
“Interestingly, Finland has had some of the highest Vitamin D levels in Europe and has the lowest Covid-19 mortality rate per head of population in the EU, which again reinforces the importance of ensuring our population have access to supplements.
“The report recommends the development of a public health policy to increase knowledge and encourage uptake of Vitamin D supplements in time for consideration for Budget 2022. We now need this policy to be drawn up to take into the account the recommendations made, as these supplements are cheap and can be quickly distributed.
“By now we are all aware of the measures we must take to protect ourselves and others from Covid-19. And while the vaccination roll-out continues and is ramped up, taking Vitamin D supplements can only help bolster the population’s defences further,” Deputy Burke concluded.