Have Diabetes and Hesitant About COVID-19 Vaccines? Read This


Editor’s Note: We have a simple goal: tap into the power of the global diabetes community to save lives. Visit coronavirusdiabetes.org to learn more about what you can do as a person with diabetes to keep yourself and others safe from COVID-19 until we’re all safe. 

This article was last updated on Wednesday, December 15, 2021.

Only 58 percent of people in the United States are fully vaccinated. While we encourage everyone who is able to get vaccinated to do so, we also understand that each person has their own concerns about getting the COVID-19 vaccines. We’re here to give you trustworthy science and fact-based information. Here are a few things we want you to know:

Vaccines lower the risk of death and severe illness for everyone, not just you

  • This isn’t to scare you, but it’s a fact that needs to be stated—at this point, nearly all deaths (99 percent) and hospitalizations (97 percent) from COVID-19 are people who have not been vaccinated. Infection rates are highest in places with lower rates of vaccination among the population, but are happening everywhere because people who are not vaccinated carry and spread significant amounts of the virus, and people who are vaccinated but aren’t wearing masks may be able to spread smaller amounts of the virus as well.
  • Even if you’re not worried about getting sick yourself, unless you never leave your house, you being unvaccinated puts kids at risk. Those under the age of 5 still cannot get vaccinated—the vaccines are still going through clinical trials and approvals for their age groups.

The COVID-19 vaccines are safer than you may think

  • The use of mRNA—from which the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are made—is not new. It’s been researched for decades. These and other COVID-19 vaccines were given emergency use approval after incredibly strict clinical trials with tens of thousands of people. The Pfizer vaccine has since been granted full approval, with others expected to follow. As of July 2021, 163 million people in the US and 1.1 billion people across the globe had been fully vaccinated, keeping them safe against severe symptoms, hospitalization, or death from COVID-19.
  • We know how coronaviruses work, and therefore how to best fight against them. While coronaviruses have existed for thousands of years, scientists identified the first human coronavirus in 1965. We know that different coronaviruses impact humans in different ways—some cause mild colds while some cause severe respiratory illnesses like SARS in 2002. This means that, while COVID-19 was new, we’ve studied how to fight against coronaviruses for a long time.
  • Vaccine safety and effectiveness tests didn’t end after the clinical trials; they are ongoing and will continue to be. Any time any issue with a vaccine has been noted, which is rare, the type of vaccinations in question are paused until it can be proven they are fully safe and whatever happened was a very unique and rare outlier. The FDA does not allow unsafe vaccines, medications and medical devices to get approved (we learn this all the time by how long it takes diabetes medications and devices to get through FDA clearance!).
  • Vaccines train your body how to respond to an illness by showing your body what the sickness looks like. mRNA vaccines do not have any virus in them, they just look like a copy of the virus, which means they cannot give you COVID-19. Instead, they make sure your body knows what to look out for and how to fight it so that if you do get exposed to COVID-19, including current variants, it can keep you healthy against it. That’s why you may feel a little tired after you get a vaccine—not because you have COVID-19, but because your body is a bit distracted learning how to recognize and fight against COVID-19, but in something that looks like a test environment.

Yup, they’re safe for people with diabetes too

  • People with diabetes in each of the vaccine trials did not report major side effects. Additionally, after almost nine months of people with diabetes in the general public getting COVID-19 vaccines, we have not heard of any major issues experienced by anyone with diabetes. Overall, some clinical trial participants have reported mild side effects of the vaccines, much like how some people experience injection-site soreness, mild lethargy, or a low-grade fever after the flu vaccine. These mild reactions some people experience after vaccines are typical and not cause for alarm—they are a result of the immune system going into action as purposely triggered by the vaccine, creating the ability to fight against the actual virus if a person were exposed to it.
  • Because of the mild symptoms experienced by some, it is important to stay vigilant about blood sugar levels for the first 24 to 48 hours after receiving the vaccine. The symptoms may impact your blood sugar levels, so check your blood sugar levels frequently, stay hydrated and be familiar with your sick day routine. The mild symptoms you may experience after the vaccine are significantly safer and more easily managed than potentially getting COVID-19 itself and are similar to having a cold.
  • If you have specific worries about your unique situation, definitely speak with your healthcare provider, but doctors we trust recommend that everyone with diabetes—especially kids who are eligible—get the COVID-19 vaccine.

The pandemic isn’t going anywhere if we don’t get vaccinated

  • COVID-19 cases are increasing again because of the low vaccination rates combined with current variants, which are more contagious than previous variants of the novel coronavirus. It’s more contagious because people infected with the current variants literally carry MORE of the virus; the more virus you carry (what’s called a higher viral load) the more likely you—or others you come into contact with—are to get sick.
  • The United States will stay in pandemic mode until at least more than 70 percent of the US population, and large portions of the global population, are vaccinated. Going to school and work, eating out and going to social activities, earning consistent paychecks, having access to food and other items including medical supplies (supply chains get interrupted by widespread illnesses like this) will all continue to get interrupted the longer the pandemic goes on.

The bottom line

We’re so close. We have trusted and effective COVID-19 vaccines—now it’s a matter of ensuring everyone who has access to the vaccines gets them and expanding equitable access to everyone. Together, we have the power to shape what happens next. Every action to curb the spread of the virus—like getting your COVID-19 vaccine—represents countless infections prevented. Together, we can lead the way in stopping the spread of COVID-19. The lives of the most vulnerable among us are on the line.

WRITTEN BY Lala Jackson, POSTED 07/28/21, UPDATED 12/05/22

Lala is a communications strategist who has lived with type 1 diabetes since 1997. She worked across med-tech, business incubation, library tech and wellness before landing in the type 1 diabetes (T1D) non-profit space in 2016. A bit of a nomad, she grew up primarily bouncing between Hawaii and Washington state and graduated from the University of Miami. You can usually find her reading, preferably on a beach.