Help Study if Vitamin D Can Protect Against COVID-19

About Vitamin D

Vitamin D is important for strong bones and also helps our immune system fight infections. Low vitamin D levels are common. Taking vitamin D supplements has been found to decrease the risk of respiratory infections. Prompted by evidence that people with vitamin D deficiency are more likely to test positive for COVID-19 and experience significant symptoms, a team at the University of Chicago and Rush University is conducting two studies to learn if taking a daily vitamin D supplement can help prevent COVID-19 or decrease the severity of its symptoms.

Individuals who live and/or work in Chicagoland (including southern Wisconsin and northwest Indiana) may be eligible to participate if they are over age 18, are NOT pregnant or breastfeeding, and do not have medical conditions that increase the risk of taking vitamin D supplements.

Risks and Benefits

All research has some risk. Vitamin D supplements can increase blood calcium which can cause anxiety, confusion, heart problems, kidney problems, and muscle weakness with increased risk of falls. Personal information can be accidentally released. We reduce these risks by:

  • Keeping vitamin D doses below those likely to cause high calcium
  • Excluding patients from the study who report any health condition that could increase the risk of taking vitamin D supplements
  • Storing all data behind secure passwords and firewall protected computer networks
  • Offering blood testing for vitamin D side effects in Study Option 2

Benefits of participating may include:

  • Contributing to knowledge about how to reduce the burden of COVID-19
  • Decreasing your risk of contracting COVID-19
  • Improving your bone health
  • Providing participants in study option 2 access to 4 free COVID-19 antibody tests

Study Choices

We are offering two versions of our study so participants can choose the best option for them.

  • Study Option 1: Participants will receive tablets to take daily containing either 400 international units (IU) of vitamin D or 4000 IU. This study is no-contact and can be completed from your own home. You may prefer this option if you would rather take lower doses of vitamin D, want to avoid blood draws, or don’t want to travel to the University of Chicago Hyde Park or Ingalls medical campus or to the Rush medical campus.
  • Study Option 2: Participants will receive tablets to take daily containing either 400 international units (IU) of vitamin D, 4000 IU or 10,000 IU. Given the higher doses of vitamin D in this study option, you will also have blood drawn for lab tests at the start of the study and every three months to assess for any toxicity of vitamin D. These lab tests will also check your blood to see if you have been exposed to COVID-19 (COVID antibodies). We will let you know if you are antibody positive. You may prefer this option if you want the opportunity to take higher doses of vitamin D, are interested in knowing if you have COVID antibodies, or are interested in additional safety monitoring.

In both studies, you will complete an initial on-line screening survey to collect demographic and health information to determine your eligibility and where your vitamins will be sent or picked up. You will also complete a 15-minute follow-up survey every 3 months for a year. You will not know what level of vitamin D supplement you are given and have no financial responsibility for cost of the vitamin D supplements or lab tests where required.

Center for Health and the Social Sciences 
5841 S. Maryland Avenue, Mail Code 1005
Chicago, IL 60637