Our Community Shares Why They Get Vaccinated Against the Flu and COVID-19


 

If you or your child with Type 1 diabetes has never experienced a true bout with the flu, a stomach bug, or COVID-19, it could be easy to dismiss them all as no big deal. High survival rates, however, don’t mean enduring and surviving isn’t a life-threatening, scary, or remarkably stressful experience.

Keeping your blood sugar at safe levels and avoiding diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) while sick is an extra (and significant) hurdle we have to overcome.

A virus like the flu or COVID-19 may sound like no big deal to many—especially to those whose bodies have always kept them relatively healthy. What’s so scary about the flu? We hear about it all the time and mostly assume it’ll get you out of school or work for a week.

High survival rates do not mean surviving is easy

For about 5 years in a row in my 20s, I contracted some type of stomach bug or the flu every winter. One year, I contracted the very contagious norovirus (a brutal stomach bug) and was quarantined in the hospital for several days like it was a case of small-pox.

Hooked up to intravenous fluids and advocating constantly for my Type 1 diabetes management needs, I was finally well enough to consume some juice and a little bit of plain rice. Yup, I obviously survived, but if a vaccine against norovirus and other stomach bugs existed, I’d sign-up in a heartbeat.

For a person with Type 1 diabetes, a bout with the flu is enough stress on your entire system to put you in diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) and force you to endure hospital standards of Type 1 diabetes management. Without a trip to the hospital for intravenous fluids, the flu can potentially kill you as a person with Type 1 diabetes.

(Ever been driven to the hospital with a blood sugar of 1.9 mmol/L35 mg/dL, unable to even consume one glucose tab without vomiting? It’s not fun.)

Even if your A1c is great and you’re super-duper healthy

It doesn’t matter that I exercise daily, have awesome blood pressure, take my vitamins, am a healthy weight, and manage my blood sugars tightly—my body is still highly vulnerable and cannot regulate basic aspects of health without major intervention, especially when facing a virus. Especially in those of us with Type 1 diabetes, we cannot predict how the stress of that virus impacts our bodies.

If I can protect my body from a severe case of the flu or COVID-19 by giving my immune system the tools to prepare for such an attack, I’m going to. The fact that my 100% healthy friends who endured COVID-19 in early 2020 still got vaccinated tells us all just how brutal the experience was—despite never being hospitalized and clearly surviving.

Here, other people with Type 1 diabetes share why they get vaccinated.

“I got vaccinated against the flu and COVID-19 because…”

The following were collected via public submissions on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

“I’ve had both the flu and COVID-19 and don’t want either again. I’m vaccinated to keep my 10 y/o daughter safe.  If I need a booster every month, I’ll get it. I also have T1D.” – Rox

“I worked a COVID ICU [intensive care unit] as an RN, watching my patients, many of whom were like me—people with diabetes—die night after night. The minute I could receive my vaccine, I did.” – Bougiebetic

“The one year I didn’t get the flu jab (there was a shortage) I got flu. It was awful. Took me out for at least a week. Had to get my parents to look after me despite being a fully grown adult.” – Pippopop

“My 7 year old son’s last hospitalization was a couple of years ago. He had high ketones resulting from a days-long stomach bug and needed IV fluids. His diabetes care was so lacking that I am determined to keep him out of the hospital. My biggest worry is that my son would get COVID and I would be forced to leave his diabetes care up to the hospital. I am also extremely concerned about how he would fare with kidney or liver damage from COVID. Don’t want to find out!” – Julia

“I’m type 1, and I got vaccinated as soon as my stage gave us the green light. I did it to protect myself, my family, and my friends. I think the whole planet is affected and if we want to end it, we have to work together.” – Florencia

“I was a healthy ten year old when I got diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. It was that first lesson that even if I’m doing everything right, taking my vitamins, eating well, humans get side-swiped by health stuff sometimes. If there was anything any of us could have done to prevent Type 1, I know we would’ve done it. So over the years, as the flu landed me in the hospital three separate times, I learned to take every precaution I could. I’m way healthier now than I ever was—my nutrition is super strict, I take supplements like crazy—but there’s always that chance. A day when my blood sugars have been a little higher than normal so my system isn’t quite as strong, a day when I just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and get exposed—they could lead me to the hospital again and, especially with hospitals overwhelmed by COVID patients, even if they could take care of COVID, I don’t know if my diabetes would get the attention it requires while I’m under someone else’s care. So I took the COVID-19 vaccine, I take the flu shot every year and I’ll do it again this year. Because if there is anything I can do to avoid more terrifying days in the hospital, I’ll do it. The “what ifs” aren’t worth the gamble.” – Lala 

“Doing my best to prevent anything that will stop me being able to deal with my diabetes myself. The questions and attitudes around understanding insulin requirements in the hospital scared the b’jesus out me. I would not want to be under anyone else’s care but my own.” – Hev

“To protect me, as a T1D; for my children – I don’t want to expose them to a virus that could cause their immune systems to implode and develop something like T1D; to protect my unborn child; to protect my older family members; to protect the patients I see at work everyday.” – Mairead

“I value being able to stay in range and out of hospital! I got my vaccinations so I can stay as healthy as can be. I don’t like being sick and especially don’t like hospitals! As a T1D, I need to stay healthy. There’s already enough to keep up with without ending up with COVID or the flu.” – Cathy

“As a person with Type 1 Diabetes, I shudder at the thought of being hospitalized, particularly at a time when the medical staff is stretched and stressed to the max. My control would slip away, and leave me even more vulnerable to a bad outcome from covid.” – Carol

“I’ve been double vaccinated [taken both required doses of the COVID vaccine] to protect myself & others from COVID. I have T1D and am on immunosuppressants for another condition. The thought of being in hospital with COVID & relying on other to manage my diabetes scares the hell out of me. I’ve had bad experiences in the past!” – Muddleson

“My son’s T1D. It’s why we always get our flu shots, too. Even with the flu shot, he’s landed in the ER. I even enrolled the T1D and my other teenager in the Pfizer COVID vaccine trial. (They both got placebo.)” – Mary

“My other-half works front facing with the public—they sneeze, cough, etc. over him and argued about masks even when they were compulsory so I need all the protection I can get.” – Frances

“I’m in close contact with 450 people a week in my job. No opportunity for social distancing. So both ‘at risk’ and a one person ‘super spreader’. So my reason is Duty of Care, I guess. but also self-preservation.” – T1Bionic

“Having an autoimmune disease, protecting myself and others, furthering humanity’s scientific progress, and hoping for the good in people.” – Julia

“I have lifelong Type 1 diabetes and was hit with encephalitis in 2014—both are autoimmune conditions. While there was nothing I could do to prevent either disease, by getting vaccinated I can stop COVID.” – Chris

“Received COVID vaccine as soon as I was able! With diabetes being such a big negative factor for people who get COVID, wanted to eliminate that possibility!” – Gary

“To keep my loved ones safe who are immune compromised! As well as myself.” – Pancreaslessandthriving

“To protect my family, friends, and myself from COVID because having Type 1 diabetes, I know how the flu affects me, so I don’t want COVID!” – Dawn

“Mine was mainly to protect my 90 year old dad. I’ve not seen him since last December. I’m hoping to see him next week. Also, it’s just the right thing to do, to protect not just myself, but others. Especially anti-vaxers/anti-masker folks, since even with being double jabbed recently I could potentially be carrying the virus and infect them. Like many T1Ds, with our mucked up autoimmune system and often other health issues, I’ll take a vaccine over COVID/influenza/measles, etc.” – FatCatAnna

“To protect the most vulnerable in our society.” – Savvb

Thank you for sharing your reasons to get vaccinated—and thank you for getting vaccinated!

WRITTEN BY Ginger Vieira, POSTED 08/05/21, UPDATED 08/10/21

Ginger Vieira is an author and writer living with type 1 diabetes, Celiac disease, fibromyalgia, and hypothyroidism. She’s authored a variety of books, including “When I Go Low” (for kids), “Pregnancy with Type 1 Diabetes,” and “Dealing with Diabetes Burnout.” Before joining Beyond Type 1 as Digital Content Manager, Ginger wrote for Diabetes Mine, Healthline, T1D Exchange, Diabetes Strong and more! In her free time, she is jumping rope, scootering with her daughters, or walking with her handsome fella and their dog.