As the United States has begun rolling out COVID-19 vaccines across the country, it has also created guidelines regarding eligibility and prioritization for the drug. There are multiple phases with different requirements to determine who gets the vaccine when. Currently, phase one is for the most at-risk groups, including frontline healthcare workers, seniors, those in long-term care facilities, and individuals at increased risk for severe illness.
While people with type 2 diabetes fall under phase 1 of the vaccine rollout, people with type 1 diabetes are included in phase 2. This has caused quite a bit of confusion and concern among those most familiar with the disease. The CDC points to “limited evidence” of increased risk for severe illness in individuals with T1D as the reason for the different phase designations. There is a growing push to get both type 1 and type 2 diabetes included in the phase 1 rollout.
There have been several recent studies that demonstrate the risk of contracting COVID-19 for individuals with T1D, including:
- A study published in Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology in August 2020 shows that those with type 2 diabetes were more than two times as likely to die, while those with type 1 diabetes were more than 3.5 times as likely to die when compared to similar individuals without diabetes.
- A study published in Diabetes Care in December 2020 that notes “people with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes who develop COVID-19 are three to four times as likely to experience severe illness and hospitalization as people without diabetes.”
- A study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found a higher risk of developing diabetic ketoacidosis in Black and Hispanic individuals with COVID-19.
The evidence is there, but it is up to the CDC as to whether all diabetes patients are grouped together in one priority group or remain separate. However, state and local agencies can set their own eligibility guidelines when running vaccination programs, so they have the ability to prioritize all patients with diabetes if they so choose. Doctors also want the ability to prioritize certain patients based on their health history and risk factors. Only time will tell as the country continues to try to ramp up vaccine distribution.
The Diabetes Research Connection is waiting to see what happens next while supporting improved prevention and treatment options and the push for a cure for type 1 diabetes. Receiving a COVID-19 vaccine is just one step toward potentially improving quality of life and reducing risk for this population. Learn more about the DRC and the research projects currently being funded by visiting https://diabetesresearchconnection.org.
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