Background: The relationship between vitamin D status and COVID-19-related clinical outcomes is controversial. Prior studies have been conducted in smaller, single-site, or homogeneous populations limiting adjustments for social determinants of health (race/ethnicity and poverty) common to both vitamin D deficiency and COVID-19 outcomes.
Objective: To evaluate the dose-response relationship between continuous 25(OH)D and risk for COVID-19-related hospitalization and mortality after adjusting for covariates associated with both vitamin D deficiency and COVID-19 outcomes.
Design: Retrospective cohort study.
Patients: Veteran patients receiving care in US Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) health care facilities with a positive severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) test and a blood 25(OH)D test between February 20, 2020, and November 8, 2020, followed for up to 60 days.
Main measures: Exposure was blood 25(OH)D concentration ascertained closest to and within 15 to 90 days preceding an index positive SARS-CoV-2 test. Co-primary study outcomes were COVID-19-related inpatient hospitalization requiring airborne, droplet, contact, or other isolation and mortality ascertained within 60 days of an index positive SARS-CoV-2 test.
Key results: Of 4,599 veterans with a positive SARS-CoV-2 test, vitamin D deficiency (< 20 ng/mL) was identified in 665 (14.5%); 964 (21.0%) were hospitalized; and 340 (7.4%) died. After adjusting for all covariates, including race/ethnicity and poverty, there was a significant independent inverse dose-response relationship between increasing continuous 25(OH)D concentrations (from 15 to 60 ng/mL) and decreasing probability of COVID-19-related hospitalization (from 24.1 to 18.7%, p=0.009) and mortality (from 10.4 to 5.7%, p=0.001). In modeling 25(OH)D as a log-transformed continuous variable, the greatest risk for hospitalization and death was observed at lower 25(OH)D concentrations.
Conclusions: Continuous blood 25(OH)D concentrations are independently associated with COVID-19-related hospitalization and mortality in an inverse dose-response relationship in this large racially and ethnically diverse cohort of VA patients. Randomized controlled trials are needed to evaluate the impact of vitamin D supplementation on COVID-19-related outcomes.
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