Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Questions (802)

Róisín Shortall

Question:

802. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Health if his Department is considering steps to improve the uptake of vitamin D among the population in particular for older and more vulnerable persons (details supplied); if his attention has been drawn to a scheme to distribute vitamin D to those most at risk of disease in Scotland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37981/20]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

My Department continues to welcome and consider international research and evidence surrounding COVID-19 and immune protection. Recent national research carried out by The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) regarding Vitamin D deficiency and implications for immune protection for Covid-19 was published in April, 2020. Rates of deficiency within the older population at different ages and during wintertime were considered within this research. TILDA is funded by my Department and the results of this study are available here:- https://tilda.tcd.ie/publications/reports/pdf/Report_Covid19VitaminD.pdf

The public health advice relating to Covid-19 is kept under continuing review by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET). Ireland is guided by the advice, guidance and protocols of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). The expert guidance of the ECDC in particular is based upon consideration of the circumstances arising in the European Union and globally. The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) reviews these international developments as part of its overall examination of the evolving epidemiology of the disease.

Micronutrients, such as vitamins D, are critical for a well-functioning immune system and play a vital role in promoting health and nutritional well-being. However, the consistent guidance from the international bodies referenced above is that there is as yet insufficient data to support the use of Vitamin D in the prevention or treatment of COVID-19.

Earlier this year, my Department requested the Scientific Committee of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) to examine the vitamin D status of this older population and provide scientific recommendations on vitamin D supplementation. The FSAI Report found that older people in Ireland do not get sufficient vitamin D from their diet or the effect of sunlight on their skin.

Based on the evidence provided in the FSAI Report, my Department is advising that adults aged 65 and older take a vitamin D supplement to ensure they get the essential vitamin D needed for bone and muscle health.