AS Victoria grapples with a growing aged care crisis, one expert has called for a vitamin supplement to protect our most vulnerable from COVID-19.
Former Complementary Healthcare Council of Australia president Ian Brighthope is calling on the federal government to fund a Vitamin D supplement program for the elderly.
"We know so much about Vitamin D already, and the immunity benefits it provides in fighting a range of viruses including in the common cold, flu and pox families," Professor Brighthope said.
"Vitamin D, and in particular vitamin D3, has a profound affect on everything in the body.
We used to think it was just for bones and teeth but it plays a critical role in many processes in the body including the muscular, nervous and immune systems."
It has a real potential to save lives, through reducing the severity of symptoms or even fighting off the virus in the first place.
While Vitamin D can be obtained through diet and exposure to sunlight, Professor Brighthope said supplementation was the most effective way to increase low levels to ensure adequate protection.
"Those over the age of 60 or those with a chronic illness should be tested every year for their vitamin D levels. If it's low, bring it up to levels where you get protection. The best way to do that is by taking a capsule."
Professor Brighthope said that a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine could be a long way off.
"It seems madness that in the meantime we are not using all the defences available to us, especially one as cost effective as this."
"It is one thing to be investing in future vaccines and drugs to treat COVID-19, but we should also be looking at how we can build community defences with what we have available now," he said.
"Extensive research has demonstrated that Vitamin D provides a non-specific defence to respiratory viruses, suggesting it would be capable of providing benefits even as COVID-19 evolves and mutates.
It has a real potential to save lives, through reducing the severity of symptoms or even fighting off the virus in the first place."
Professor Brighthope urged for the government to introduce the Vitamin D program alongside existing social distancing and hygiene measures.
He believes it would allow the economy to open up faster, providing financial benefits.