Why Vitamins Won't Protect You From Delta COVID Variant

As the Delta variant continues to spread in the U.S., people are considering how best to protect themselves from COVID.

Health bodies including the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advise people to get vaccinated to prevent COVID. However, during the pandemic many people have looked for other, unrecommended methods of protection.

These have included the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, which was touted by President Donald Trump, and the horse dewormer ivermectin—both of which have been rejected as COVID treatments by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The public also appears to be interested in vitamins, evidenced by a spike in Google users asking if they can help protect against the Delta variant, according to Google Trends data. Delta is currently responsible for over 99 percent of COVID cases in the U.S., according to the CDC.

"Vitamins are completely ineffective against COVID transmission because they do not act against any stages in the virus replication cycle," John P. Moore, a professor of microbiology and immunology at Weill Cornell Medical College, told Newsweek. "Nor do they affect our immune system's ability to respond to the virus."

Moore said that people relying on vitamins, ivermectin, hydroxychloroquine, and other ineffective methods are placing themselves at great risk of being infected because they believe they are protected when they are not. The immunologist added that the spread of viral stories on social media compounds the problem.

In an article for Smerconish, the website of presenter Michael A. Smerconish,Moore and Nicoli Nattrass, a professor of economics at Cape Town University, wrote: "Stories abound on social media of people concocting their own cocktails of vitamins, horse paste, etc., and 'curing' themselves of COVID-19.

"As most cases of COVID-19 are mild, this kind of anecdotal evidence is totally unreliable. In all probability, the recovery would have happened anyway, without any self-medicating at all—which is why clinical trials are necessary to prove whether a drug works or not."

Davidson Harmer, professor of Global Health and Medicine at Boston University Schools of Public Health and Medicine, has for decades researched the interaction between nutrition and infection and the importance of micronutrients for normal immune function.

He told Newsweek that while having normal levels of micronutrients and other essential vitamins and minerals is important for having normal immune function, there is no evidence that taking vitamins will prevent an individual for catching COVID.

"There is evidence that vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased risk of becoming infected with SARS-CoV-2 [The virus that causes COVID-19]. However, the limited studies that have evaluated vitamin D supplements to try to avoid infection have not shown any benefit."

Harmer, who is also an adjunct professor of nutrition at the Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, said there are currently ongoing clinical trials investigating potential links between vitamin D and COVID, but doctors won't know more until those results come in.

He went on "At this point, there is insufficient evidence to support taking vitamins to prevent acquiring the Delta variant."

In a previous interview with Newsweek, Moore was clear what the best protection against any variant of COVID is: "vaccination will protect you against all of these variants no matter its degree of antibody resistance, it will still give you substantial protection.

"And the best way to deal with Delta is to get vaccinated."

Medicines
A stock photo shows a woman selecting medicines in a pharmacy. Vitamins will not protect a person against COVID. Tero Vesalainen/Getty