As the nights draw in, government sloganeering gets more and more mysterious: “Check, Change, Go” has replaced “Get Brexit Done” and the latest wisdom to combat coronavirus is “Hands, Face, Space”. Both have an air of scissors-paper-stone about them, woefully failing to spell out specifics that are so badly needed in a period of extreme uncertainty.
With no Covid-19 vaccine on the horizon any time soon, an obvious bit of advice the government ought to communicate to us all is to take vitamin D supplements. Research has repeatedly demonstrated the benefits for our immune system of vitamin D, but unlike other nutrients it’s rarely found in food and comes via the action of UV rays on our skin — all the more reason to publicise supplement-taking now, given that the days are drawing in.
Yet when both David Davis (Tory grandee, ex-Brexit secretary) and I (an independent-minded Labour Remainiac backbench MP) have tried to bend the ear of health secretary Matt Hancock on this, flat rejection has followed — most recently in parliament last Monday. This week, despite our differences, we’ve teamed up together and been granted an audience with him to discuss our reasoning in a (socially distanced) sit-down dialogue that questions in the chamber preclude.
We are all armchair epidemiologists now. But since I’ve started championing this issue, scores of eminent medics have emailed in a slew of studies from far and wide showing evidence of the role of vitamin D in reducing the risk of respiratory infections, including Covid-19. Even where samples are small the results are so overwhelming that they cannot be ignored.
Recommending vitamin D is not a panacea but it is a potentially powerful additional tool in our armoury against coronavirus, near-halving the need for intensive care in hospitalised Covid-19 patients in a recent Spanish randomised controlled trial.
In a global pandemic, an injection of honesty wouldn’t go amiss. Recommending vitamin D and even prescribing it would be inexpensive and far-reaching. With the worst death toll in Europe, what do we have to lose?