Woman getting a COVID-19 vaccine from a clinician
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People with diabetes face a much higher risk of experiencing severe illness from COVID-19. That means they should consider getting the COVID-19 vaccine and booster shots.

People who have received the COVID-19 vaccine and booster shots are not often reported for long lasting blood sugar fluctuations.

Some people with both type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes have experienced brief blood sugar spikes after receiving one of the doses.

When you live with diabetes, you should know what to do with COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots.

People with diabetes should get a vaccine.

The COVID-19 vaccines are available in the US.

  1. U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech, released their first vaccine in mid-December 2020 for people ages 16 and older. After the first shot, a second dose is required 21 days later. This vaccine was approved for use in children ages 12 and older in May 2021. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted full approval for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in August 2021. It’s fully approved for ongoing use for everyone 12 years and older. A third dose, or booster, is also available for people 5 years and older.
  2. U.S. biotech company Moderna released its vaccine in late December 2020. It’s approved for use in adults 18 years and older. This vaccine also requires two shots, with a 28-day period before the second dose. A booster is available as well.
  3. Pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson (J&J) released its vaccine after getting FDA approval in late February 2021. This one is different than the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. It only requires a single shot versus two separate doses. It also does not require storage at very cold temperatures, as the others need. Read more details on the J&J vaccine here.

Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are mRNA vaccines. This is a newer type of vaccine that essentially “teaches” human cells how to make a protein — or a piece of a protein — that triggers an immune response inside our bodies.

If the real virus enters our bodies, this will produce antibodies that will protect us from infections.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains that while mRNA vaccines may be newer to the public, they are not unknown. They’ve been extensively studied for the flu, Zika virus, rabies, and cytomegalovirus.

Coincidentally, one of the key scientists behind the technology driving mRNA vaccines actually lives with T1D himself.

The need for COVID-19 vaccines has become increasingly important, with new coronavirus variants gaining traction and research data showing that unvaccinated people are being hospitalized and dying at a significantly higher rate than vaccinated people.

The CDC says that COVID-19 boosters are shots that enhance or restore protection. The first and second vaccine doses may have an effect on protection.

Boosters and diabetes

People are encouraged to get a booster shot.

  • Everyone 5 years and older should get a booster after completing their primary vaccinations.
  • People eligible for a second booster include adults 50 years and older, as well as kids 12 years and older who are consideredmoderately or severely immunocompromised (e.g., receiving cancer treatment, organ transplant recipients).

The timing of each booster may depend on each person’s particulars, including age and whether they are immunocompromised. The CDC outlines specific details on the timing and details for those additional booster shots.

They are safe, short answer.

After clinical trials that included tens of thousands of people, the CDC asserts that the FDA-approved vaccines are safe and effective for most people, barring certain rare allergic conditions.

However, the CDC did issue this disclaimer for people with autoimmune conditions like T1D:

People with autoimmune conditions may be able to receive a vaccine. They should be aware that there is no data available on the safety of the vaccines for them. The individuals from this group were eligible for trials.

Severe allergic reactions are extremely rare.

Read this CDC page for more information about COVID-19 vaccines and allergies.

People living with diabetes are not generally considered “immunocompromised,” unlike those who take immunosuppressant drugs, have received a pancreas or other organ transplant, or live with other health conditions.

Officials know that having diabetes is related to COVID-19 risk.

The CDC cites numerous research studies showing both T1D and T2D raise the risk of more severe illness from COVID-19. According to one of those studies, T1D specifically presents a potential three times higher risk of more severe illness.

The CDC prioritized T2D over T1D for access to COVID-19 vaccine. The CDC revised its guidelines in April of 2021.

Per the CDC, both conditions can make it more likely to get severely ill from COVID-19.

This CDC’s change followed months of advocacy, especially from 19 diabetes organizations that signed a letter urging the CDC to immediately prioritize T1D alongside T2D.

The side effects of COVID-19 vaccine are not limited to diabetes. They include:

  • There are some symptoms at the injection site.
  • fatigue
  • There is a throbbing head.
  • “It’s cold.”
  • There is a high degree of fever.
  • nausea
  • The muscles are sore.

Diabetes advocates crowd-sourced this topic to better track what people with diabetes have experienced after being vaccine-vaccinated.

The nonprofit Beta Cell Foundation began collecting data with an online database in early 2021. It gathered hundreds of responses from people who’ve gotten one or both vaccine doses:

  • Approximately 10 to 15 percent of people reported elevated blood sugars after receiving their first vaccine dose. The second dose resulted in elevated sugars for 23 to 29 percent of the people.
  • After vaccination with the J&J vaccine, 42 percent had elevated sugars.
  • One person reported both higher and lower blood sugars, which may be due to shifting glucose levels.
  • Less than 1 percent of people reported lower blood sugars after receiving the second vaccine.
  • There were no significant differences between Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech.

If someone has a severe reaction to a vaccine, it is best to consult with a doctor or healthcare professional who knows your health situation.

The vaccines and boosters are safe. People with diabetes are encouraged to get a vaccine against COVID-19 because of the higher risk of illness.

Some people with diabetes do report minimal changes in their blood sugars, despite the fact that the vaccines and boosters are not guaranteed to affect their levels.

The timing and need for a COVID-19 booster may be different for each person. If you have any concerns about your diabetes management, talk to a doctor.