Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Preventing a covid-19 pandemic

BMJ 2020; 368 doi: (Published 28 February 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;368:m810

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Rapid Response:

Re: Preventing a covid-19 pandemic - individuals' defence better if supplied with sufficient vitamin D

Dear Editor

In this interesting collection of rapid responses others have already pointed out, that vitamin D could be helpful, I can only agree.

If avoiding vitamin D deficiency can prevent respiratory infections, as shown by a meticulous meta-analysis, published in the BMJ in 2017 (1) , which was called “magic bullet” by a reviewer (2), then, wouldn’t there be a realistic chance that sufficient vitamin D could also help in the Corvid-19 pandemic? Maybe more people could be in the mild category, less in the severe. Indeed there is ample opportunity in the UK to treat vitamin D deficient people, as we have a very high prevalence, worst in Scotland, due to latitude, one third of the population here has severe deficiency, in some areas nearly 50% (3). I encountered many vitamin D deficient patients in our GP practice (4).

I think everyone would be wise to take a supplement, as has been advised by the UK health authorities anyway, although only for bone health reasons. It might be wise to take a slightly larger dose than the NHS recommended 10 mcg (good for babies, but not for a much larger adult). It is safe, cheap, up to 100 mcg daily is acceptable. Others, in Finland, have implemented population wide food fortification in recent years.

Shouldn’t we remind the public of taking a vitamin D supplement now?

1. Martineau AR,Jolliffe DA, Hooper RL et al. Vitamin D supplementation to prevent acute respiratory tract infections: systematic review and meta-analysis of individual participant data. BMJ 2017;356:i6583
2. Mellis C. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health 53 (2017) 722–723 723 © 2017 Paediatrics and Child Health Division (The Royal Australasian College of Physicians)
3. Food Standards Agency in Scotland. Vitamin D status of Scottish adults: Results from the 2010 & 2011 Scottish Health Surveys . Purdon G, Comrie F, Rutherford L, Marcinkiewicz A. September 2013
4. Rhein HM. Vitamin D deficiency is widespread in Scotland. BMJ 2008;336 June 28

Competing interests: No competing interests

06 March 2020
Helga M Rhein
retired GP
previous Sighthill HC, 380 Calder Road, Edinburgh EH11 4AU
previous Sighthill HC, 380 Calder Road, Edinburgh EH11 4AU