Analysis: Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe for people with Type 1 diabetes?
As states across the US begin administering COVID-19 vaccinations to citizens, many of the 1.6 million Americans who've been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes are questioning whether or not the vaccine is safe for them.
While each patient's situation is different, and individuals are encouraged to consult with their physician before making a final decision in this regard, one of the leading organizations on issues related to Type 1 diabetes has announced that the two vaccines being administered across the U.S. are safe for adults with this form of diabetes.
The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) says on its website, "All data shows the vaccines (the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID vaccines) are safe and effective for people with T1D."
However, when it comes to children with Type 1 Diabetes, the organization says, "The Pfizer vaccine is authorized for use in people 16 years of age and older, and the Moderna vaccine in people 18 years and older. Both vaccines are now being tested in clinical trials enrolling people age 12 and older. We will continue to monitor progress and enhance our efforts as there is more evidence and as vaccines are authorized for use in broader populations, such as younger individuals."
So, according to one of the foremost diabetes research organizations in the country, most individuals with Type 1 diabetes should be able to receive the two currently approved COVID vaccinations without complications.
That said, some may still have questions related to how we know the vaccinations are safe Type 1 diabetics as well as what effect the inoculations may have on someone whose pancreas produces very little to no insulin.
Were patients with diabetes included in the vaccine trials?
Dr. Eric Frusha, an internal medicine physician at Baton Rouge General – Ascension addresses these questions and others by first of all, explaining that people with diabetes were included in the vaccine trials.
According to Dr. Frusha, the COVID-19 vaccine is the fastest vaccine developed in the history of vaccines. But, that doesn’t mean researchers bypassed safety protocols or performed inadequate testing. Clinical trials tested their safety in adults of all ages, races and ethnicities, as well as chronic health conditions.
The Pfizer-BioNtech trial included 3,150 people with diabetes (8.4% of trial participants).
And, the Moderna trial included 2,858 people with type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes (9.4% of trial participants).
Do diabetes medications affect the vaccine?
When it comes to whether or not diabetes medications affect the vaccine, Dr. Frusha says, "At this time there is no information available on drug interactions between either authorized COVID vaccine and other medications, but it’s not anticipated that the vaccine itself would interact with insulin or other standard diabetes medications."
She added that it may be useful for a patient to avoid injecting insulin into their vaccine injection site for several days after vaccination.
Does the vaccine affect blood sugar levels?
There may also be concerns related to how the vaccine impacts blood sugar levels, and Dr. Frusha acknowledged that this may be an issue for some patients.
She said, "Because the vaccine can cause symptoms of illness that can lead to high glucose levels, be sure to carefully monitor your blood sugar levels for 48 hours after you receive your vaccination. It’s also important to stay hydrated. So far, people with diabetes seem to be experiencing few side effects and minimal effect on blood sugar levels."
Are people with diabetes considered 'high risk' individuals amid the COVID-19 pandemic?
One recent study revealed that people who get COVID and have diabetes (either type 1 or type 2) have three to four times an increased risk of severe illness and hospitalization, but this doesn't mean individuals with the illness will be among those to receive vaccinations during the initial three phases of the vaccine rollout.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted to recommend that the third stage of vaccine rollouts, called Phase 1c, should focus on adults 65 to 74, people 16 to 64 years old with high-risk medical conditions, and essential workers not included in the second phase of vaccination, and based on the evidence the Committee has reviewed to date, it concluded that adults with T1D might be at risk for severe illness.
The Committee's decision did not include evidence from a more recent publication which shows that people with T1D are at an increased risk for severe illness.
Ultimately, state and local health authorities will make the final decisions on how to roll out vaccination in their areas and some have already decided to include people with T1D in a prioritized category.
When can I receive a vaccination if I have Type 1 diabetes?
At this time, having a Type 1 Diabetes diagnosis does not make one automatically eligible to receive a COVID vaccination in Louisiana during the state's initial phases of the inoculation's rollout.
The Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) Office of Public Health says it will follow the CDC's Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices (ACIP) to guide recommendations on which populations should be vaccinated with any of the COVID-19 vaccines that come on to the market after FDA approval.
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