UCSF doctor concerned about IV vitamin therapy, which has become popular during COVID-19 pandemic

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Treatments that purport to boost your immune system, like vitamin IV drips, are gaining in popularity during the pandemic and in some cases have become big business.

"I like to keep my immune system as high as possible, especially during coronavirus," said San Francisco resident, Justin Passek, who got hooked up to an IV at Drip Doctors in Cow Hollow.

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"What I'm doing today is a hydration drip. It has zinc and vitamin C," he explained.

"I came in a got a few quick shots from her and the next day I just woke up feeling so refreshed and energized," said Kathryn Grier, who goes to Drip Doctors regularly for infusions. "That's been making me feel a lot safer and healthier."

"This is where we mix IV infusion bags," said Albert Vasquez, while giving a video tour of his Danville business, IV Performance Solutions.

"I've been in business about 3.5 years and last month was my highest gross revenue month by quite a bit, probably by about 15%."

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Vasquez is also a physician assistant and firefighter paramedic. He creates custom vitamin and nutrient infusions for his clients. ABC7 news reporter, Kate Larsen, spoke to him via Zoom on Monday night.

Kate Larsen: "Do you think that your IV treatments can help people prevent, treat, or in general fight off COVID?"
Albert Vasquez: "Yeah. If you look at the nature of immunity, our bodies are riddled with opportunistic viruses and bacteria and infections every single day. And it's the fact that you maintain a robust immune system that allows you to keep from getting sick."

But not everyone is a believer in IV vitamin therapy.

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"These products like immune boosters are part of a pantheon of products that claim to protect you from COVID-19, but really don't have any scientific basis," said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, a professor of medicine and infectious disease specialist at UCSF.

Dr. Chin-Hong says the elective IV treatments can be downright dangerous and says he worries about the risk-benefit calculus.

"I am worried that anytime you stick an IV in someone, you have a risk for complications. You can get a line infection, you can get air going in to an artery, and causing an air embolism in the lungs. And then it may cause you to have difficulty breathing and some people would got to the ICU and actually not do well," he said.

He says people would be better off spending their money on masks and hand sanitizer.

"The only benefit I can imagine is that it gives you fluid, maybe if you can't drink Gatorade or water."

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