How Effective Was The Flu Vaccine And Can Vitamin D Help?

Public Health England’s 2016/2017 data revealed that the flu vaccine was only effective in less than 1 in 10 people aged 65 years old or older (i.e. 8%), and only 2 in 5 people aged 18 to 64 years old (i.e. 41%).  It was more effective in children and young people by preventing 2 out of 3 children from getting the flu (i.e. 66%).

For most people, the flu is a minor inconvenience, causing a few unpleasant days of a raised temperature, tiredness, and a dribbling nose.  However, for some people, it is a major health hazard and can even be fatal.  It is more likely to develop into a serious illness in people who are pregnant, have a long term medical condition, or are over 65 years old.

What can I do to reduce the risk of getting the flu this winter?

It has been well documented that the incidence of winter flu increases as people’s levels of vitamin D fall below 75 nmol/L.  Therefore, by maintaining healthy levels of vitamin D we will be naturally boosting our immune system and protecting ourselves against the flu virus.  There is no evidence to suggest that having the flu vaccine and also taking a daily vitamin D3 supplement is harmful.

How much vitamin D should I take?

Endocrine Society (2011) guideline recommend that people at risk of vitamin D deficiency should have up to 2000 IU (i.e. 50 mcg) of vitamin D3 a day to keep healthy circulating levels.  There is no benefit in taking more than 4000 IU (i.e. 100 mcg) of vitamin D3 a day unless you have been diagnosed with severe vitamin D deficiency by your doctor.  Smaller doses, such as 400 IU (i.e. 10 mcg) of vitamin D3 a day, has been shown not to produce healthy circulating levels in older children and adults. A healthy level of vitamin D is between 75 and 250 nmol/L.  However, many people working in this field believe that the protective health benefits are only fully realised by keeping our vitamin D level between 100 to 200 nmol/L.

What should I do next?

Contact your Doctor or Registered Dietitian to discuss whether taking 2000 to 4000 IU (i.e. 50 to 100 mcg) of vitamin D3 a day supplement is right for you.  You should consider having this discussion before the winter flu season starts if any one of the following applies to you:-

  • You are older than 65 years old
  • You are pregnant
  • You get the flu more than once a year
  • When you get the flu you to need more than a couple of days bed rest
  • You have a long term medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, hypertension, heart conditions, arthritis or any other long term medical condition



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