Is there a way that the NZ government could handle a second wave of COVID-19 in such a way as to protect people who are most vulnerable to experiencing complications or dying from a SARS CoV-2 infection yet still allow most people to work and enjoy a normal social life and keep our economy and society healthy?
The answer to this question is yes.
In the more than six months since the SARS-CoV-2 virus swept around the world, a great deal has been learned about the virus and more information on different treatment strategies is now available.
One strategy that could be helpful in reducing severe illness or death from COVID-19 would be to ensure that the population of NZ has adequate vitamin D status. Evidence from retrospective studies of COVID-19 patients indicates that an individual’s vitamin D status may mean the difference between SARS-CoV-2 causing a mild illness or being a deadly disease. In fact, even after adjusting for comorbidities, COVID-19 patients with vitamin D deficiency had over ten times the death rate than that of COVID-19 patients who had normal vitamin D levels.1
Vitamin C supplementation can be of benefit in viral infections and intravenous vitamin C has been trialled in China as a treatment for severe COVID-19 infections. This makes sense given vitamin C’s record of successful treatment of viral pneumonia and ability to moderate the cytokine storms that can affect people with severe SARS-CoV-2 infections.
Some people are at higher risk of a severe SARS-CoV-2 infection due to their age and/ or underlying medical conditions. New York State family doctor Dr. Vladimir (Zev) Zelenko has developed a successful outpatient treatment comprising of hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin and zinc sulphate. Dr. Zelenko prescribed these medications to any patient with COVID-19 symptoms who suffered from shortness of breath as well as “high-risk category” patients (which he defined as those over 60 “immunocompromised, comorbidities, etc.”). Dr. Zelenko’s letter, which includes dosages, is available online.2
If New Zealand were to experience a second wave of COVID-19 cases, a common sense way to handle it would be to educate people about self-help anti-viral treatments (such as supplementary vitamin C) as well as to ensure that GPs and natural health practitioners have access to appropriate medications and herbs so that they can successfully treat people whose age and/or underlying health complications make them vulnerable to severe illness thereby preventing unnecessary hospital admissions, and of course, deaths.
Unfortunately, Pharmac has moved to prevent GPs from accessing subsidised hydroxychloroquine for the treatment of patients with COVID-19. www.pharmac.govt.nz/information-for/ covid-19-pharmacs-response/covid-19-medicines-with-amended-access-criteria/ covid-19-hydroxychloroquine/ This decision needs to be reversed as does a decision by Medsafe to make an important herb (Artemisia annua) prescription only, thereby preventing natural health practitioners from being able to prescribe this herb to their patients. (Artemisia annua is one of the key herbs in a formula developed in research institution in Madagascar that is reportedly successful in treating COVID-19 patients.3)
In terms of treating COVID-19 patents who do require hospitalisation, routine administration of high dose intravenous vitamin C (unless the patient has a contraindication) would make sense. Moreover, much more is now known about the potential complications of severe SARS-CoV-2 infections than when NZ went into lockdown, so clinicians treating COVID-19 patients now have a much better information base on which to make decisions about other potential treatments. Judicious use of available medications should therefore result in a much better survival rate in those patients for whom outpatient is not successful.
If people who develop COVID-19 can receive the best treatment available at an early stage in their illness there is no need to lockdown the country to prevent transmission of this virus.
Katherine Smith is a herbalist and natural health consultant, as well as a published author and journalist. She is the current editor of The New Zealand Journal of Natural Medicine.