vitamin D may prevent COVID-19 and ICU admissions

Two important recent studies of vitamin D and COVID have looked at crucial outcomes: Can vitamin D prevent you from getting COVID, and can it prevent ICU admissions?

Can Vitamin D Keep You Out of the ICU?
In one of the two most recent studies of vitamin D, 76 people with COVID-19 who were hospitalized with symptoms of acute respiratory infection were put into either a control group who received “best available therapy” or a group who also got vitamin D.  The study used a highly absorbable form of vitamin D known as calcifediol (25-hydroxyvitamin). And it showed that vitamin D is capable of doing what the vaccine has not yet proven itself capable of doing: it kept people out of the ICU.

The people in the study had a variety of comorbidities. But, regardless of comorbitities, only 2% of the vitamin D group had to be admitted to the ICU. Now, here’s the important comparison: 50% of the control group had to go into ICU. 8% of the control group died. No one in the vitamin D group died. And everyone in the vitamin D group was discharged without complications (J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol 2020 Oct;203:105751).

Can Vitamin D Prevent You from Getting COVID-19?
Neither the Pfizer nor the Moderna vaccine studies have looked at the crucial question of whether the vaccine is capable of preventing you from getting COVID-19 or whether it only prevents symptoms (Nature 2020;588: 378-379). They have not studied whether you can be vaccinated and still get COVID just without some of the symptoms. That also leaves unanswered the important question of whether vaccinated people can still spread the virus.

The AstraZeneca study is the only one to monitor asymptomatic infection: though only as a secondary endpoint (which could exaggerate its effectiveness). And that study raised more concerns than hope.

In the AstraZeneca study, people that received a mistaken low dose of the vaccine achieved just 59% protection from asymptomatic infection. What is more concerning still is that in the group that received the proper dose—the dose people will actually be given—there was only a 4% efficacy against asymptomatic infection. When the two groups were averaged together in a highly questionable methodology, that left the vaccine with an only 27% efficacy against asymptomatic infection. That suggests that vaccinated people can generally still get COVID and can still be, unknowingly, transmitting it.

A study published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association, however, suggested something different for vitamin D.

The study of 489 people found that the ones with vitamin D deficiency were a significant 1.77 times more likely to get COVID-19, suggesting the possibility that vitamin D can actually prevent COVID-19. So, what happens if you give them vitamin D?

People who were deficient in vitamin D but who were treated with vitamin D supplements did not have an increased risk of COVID-19. This study, then, suggests that taking vitamin D can reduce your risk of getting COVID-19: something the vaccine studies have not yet found.

The researchers say that the low cost of vitamin D combined with its safety and these results support the use of vitamin D to prevent COVID-19, especially in groups at higher risk of deficiency or at higher risk of COVID-19 (JAMA Netw Open 2020;3(9):e2019722).

Written by Ted Snider

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