Mudsock Heights

Mudsock Heights

Credit: Dennis E. Powell

They're Accidentally Right

By Dennis E. Powell | Posted at 6:51 PM

Get ready to read something unpopular.

New York late last year and now the federal government are giving preferential treatment to non-white, non-Asian people for scarce COVID-19 treatments. On the face of it, it’s an outrage.

(And it is an outrage that Joe “My dad used to say to me, ‘Joey, you’re an idiot’” Biden failed to order sufficient testing supplies and effective treatments, instead concentrating on making national enemies out of anyone who hasn’t submitted to a vaccine that doesn’t much seem to prevent the disease. Which is why those supplies and treatments are scarce in the first place.)

While the racial-preference policy has come clothed in all sorts of phonied up historical-equity, 1619-yada-yada nonsense, it actually (and probably accidentally) has a decent scientific basis. The fact is, black and other non-white, non-Asian people are both more likely to contract the virus and more likely to suffer bad outcomes.

The reason is likely to surprise you. Nor can the government make a big deal about it because to do so would be to expose one of its most fundamental failings during the epidemic.

It’s this: How our bodies handle exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 virus is directly tied to whether or not we’re deficient in vitamin D. I touched on this in a column late last summer, but it’s worth a fuller explanation.

Sufficient vitamin D has been shown time and time again to be crucial in our ability to fight off respiratory viruses. “Patients with respiratory disease are frequently deficient in vitamin D, implying that supplementation might provide significant benefit to these patients,” notes yet another study, pre-COVID-19. “Respiratory viral infections are common and are the main trigger of acute exacerbations and hospitalization in children and adults with asthma and other airways diseases.”

“Additionally, the cardiovascular complications due to COVID-19 infection may also be connected to vitamin D3 levels and the activity of its active forms,” reports another, from last September. “Besides, a rigorous research in potential risk factors have highlighted some important contributors to the disease spread which may include: age, obesity, diabetes and ethnicity (Zhou et al., 2020) but the potentiality of the other possible risk factors cannot be undermined as is the case with insufficient vitamin D3 blood levels (Mitchell, 2020). This can be attributed to the fact that vitamin D3 plays a pivotal role in the dissemination of immune functions.”

That’s pretty technical, but if you learned to read some time ago, when reading was taught, in schools that were attended, you can probably follow it. Here’s a slightly less-technical explanation: “A growing body of circumstantial evidence now also specifically links outcomes of COVID-19 and vitamin D status. . . . In a cross-sectional analysis across Europe, COVID-19 mortality was significantly associated with vitamin D status in different populations. . . . Additionally, black and minority ethnic people — who are more likely to have vitamin D deficiency because they have darker skin — seem to be worse affected than white people by COVID-19. For example, data from the UK Office for National Statistics shows that black people in England and Wales are more than four times more likely to die from COVID-19 than are white people.”

Time now for a little primer about vitamin D. Most anyone who pays attention knows that this nutrient is important in causing calcium to become bones and teeth. But it is also crucial to our immune systems. We have two kinds of immunity: “innate,” which we have, built-in, without external intervention, and “acquired” or “adaptive,” the immunity we get from having recovered from an infection or having been vaccinated against it. Vitamin D has a large effect on the effectiveness of both kinds. Possibly its most important role is in activation of T-cells, the innate front-line infection fighters that are far more effective than adaptive-immunity’s antibodies. Also, antibodies fade over time, while T-cells are forever. So having rough and ready T-cells and the things that put them to work is really important. Without vitamin D, those T-cells are never awakened to their tasks. Without vitamin D our immune systems don’t work correctly. People who lack sufficient vitamin D are more likely to get worse infections with worse outcomes.

We mostly make our own vitamin D, when our skin is exposed to UV-B rays from the sun. We expose less of our skin to the sun in the winter and, voila!, respiratory illness increases. We increasingly use products that protect our skin from UV rays (as well we might: skin cancer prevention is important). As a result, more and more of us are vitamin D deficient.

As noted in the quote above, vitamin D deficiency is prevalent among those with darker skin, because pigments in the skin absorb UV-B rays before they get to make vitamin D. The darker your skin, the more likely you are to get infections your body can’t handle. These are accepted scientific findings. They are not Fauci political “science” but the result of actual work by real researchers doing genuine science.

The National Institutes of health have quantified vitamin D deficiency by ethnicity: “The overall prevalence rate of vitamin D deficiency was 41.6%, with the highest rate seen in blacks (82.1%), followed by Hispanics (69.2%).” According to the CDC, black people are no more likely to get SARS-CoV-2 than white people are, but the cases are far more likely to be worse: they’re two and a half times more likely to be hospitalized and almost twice as likely to die. The same is true of Hispanic people, except that they are 60 percent more likely to contract the disease in the first place. (Also, men are more likely to be vitamin D deficient than women, as are all of us the older we become — and advanced age is a risk factor for COVID-19. Seeing a pattern here?)

Correlation is not causation, but the numbers are strongly suggestive. An interesting figure from the same set of statistics tells us that Asian Americans are less likely to get the disease, be hospitalized, or die from it. This is possibly due to an ethnic diet heavy in fish and vitamin D-rich foods.

From one of the links above: “Rose Anne Kenny . . . led the cross-sectional study into mortality and vitamin D status . . . . She is adamant that the recommendations from all public health bodies should be for the population to take vitamin D supplements during this pandemic. ‘The circumstantial evidence is very strong,’ she proclaims regarding the potential effect on COVID-19 outcomes. Adding, ‘we don’t have randomised controlled trial evidence, but how long do you want to wait in the context of such a crisis? We know vitamin D is important for musculoskeletal function, so people should be taking it anyway.’ Kenny recommends that, at the very least, vitamin D supplements are given to care home residents unless there is an extremely good reason not to do so.”

What can be concluded from all of this? Well, on the face of it, we know that vitamin D is essential to our ability to fight off infections — that’s not questioned by anyone. If the NIH numbers are to be believed, four-fifths of black people and nearly as great a portion of Hispanics are deficient in vitamin D and therefore their immune response to infections is hindered. And, lo and behold, they are dying due to COVID-19 at far higher rates than others.

Why haven’t we heard about this? Why haven’t we been told to take vitamin D to reduce our risk of COVID-19 and other infections?

The cynic in me says that government officials, in applying the essential (to them) “what’s-in-it-for-me?” test, found no advantage in spreading the word., while a terrified populace is a malleable populace. What’s more, there’s no big money in promoting vitamin D, while there’s lots to be spread around if you have to create a whole new bureaucracy and award contracts likely to pay off in favors down the road. What magazine would feature Dr. Anthony Fauci on its cover if his message were “take 5,000 IU of vitamin D every day, don’t swap nonessential spit, and live your life”? (We won’t get past this pandemic until a disinterested federal prosecutor fully investigates Fauci’s increasingly apparent involvement in Wuhan gain-of-function research in association with a sketchy outfit called EcoHealth Alliance and brings charges where appropriate. But I digress.)

It would be easy to relieve vitamin D deficiency throughout the world, which might not end the spread of SARS-CoV-2 but surely would reduce it, possibly by a lot, and would help fight many other infectious diseases, too, thereby making them less likely to erupt into epidemics or worse.

The slightly less-cynical part of me wonders if government officials believe that Americans are dimwits (a theory not without evidence, given the current president and his recent predecessors) and would be downing enough vitamin D supplements and cod liver oil to kill themselves — as the more foolish among us are wont to do with all kinds of other supplements. (Example: Green tea is good for you, but too much green tea will kill you.) We each can use in the area of 1,000 IU of vitamin D daily; I take 5,000 IU. That amount is safe for me. It takes much more to be toxic. It’s packaged as “vitamin D” and “vitamin D3,” which are effectively the same.

The government could have and should have been shouting from the rooftops that we should all be taking vitamin D to help fight SARS-CoV-2, but it wasn’t. That’s a shame, because vitamin D is cheap, safe, and readily available, requires no special mobilization, development, or storage, and, frankly, requires nothing from the government — and $10 at the grocery store will get you a year’s supply.

Those who would benefit most from this are non-white, non-Asian minorities, because they’re the most deficient in vitamin D.

So there’s an actual scientific argument to be made that they, having been so failed by Joe “Bugout” Biden and his assemblage, ought to get first crack at the treatment.

The question, really, is whether there’s moral credit to awarded when governments do the right thing for the wrong reason. But to do the right thing for the right reason, governments would have to admit a glaring and obvious failure. Better for them, I suppose, to just style it as a sop to the fever-swamp denizens on the leftmost extreme.

Dennis E. Powell is crackpot-at-large at Open for Business. Powell was a reporter in New York and elsewhere before moving to Ohio, where he has (mostly) recovered. You can reach him at

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