The Latest on COVID-19 Prevention, Vaccination and Safety for People Living with Type 2 Diabetes
If you have type 2 diabetes, you might be feeling confused about the changing medical advice about COVID-19 and diabetes. The good news is, you’re not alone! And there’s plenty you can do, even if you’re feeling unsure.
It all starts with vaccines. If you get your COVID-19 shot and boosters, you’re well on your way. Still, we all have a lot more questions. Here are answers and guidance from the scientific and medical experts at the American Heart Association® (AHA) and American Diabetes Association® (ADA):
What are the safety basics?
As you probably know, type 2 diabetes increases your risk of complications if you get COVID-19. While vaccination is key, it’s still important to monitor your blood glucose (blood sugar) levels. When you do that and follow the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidelines, you are giving yourself a safety boost.
Should I get the vaccine?
Yes. Medical experts encourage everyone to get vaccinated against COVID-19 including all primary series doses and boosters. Vaccine safety has been studied thoroughly. Research has shown that vaccinations are safe for people of color, people with diabetes and people with a history of heart disease or stroke. If you get COVID-19 and your diabetes is well-managed, the vaccine lowers the risk of getting very sick and developing serious problems.
There are four vaccines in the United States that have been proven safe in scientific research. Two are FDA approved, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. Johnson & Johnson is approved for emergency use or when the Pfizer and Moderna shots are not right for the person receiving the shot. Novavax is approved for emergency use only. The CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published details about each vaccine’s results.
Is my risk of COVID-19 different because I have diabetes?
In a word, yes. The more health conditions a person has, the greater his or her risk of complications from COVID-19. The disease has disproportionately hurt people with underlying medical conditions, older adults, Black people, Hispanic people and other people of historically under-represented races and ethnicities.
However, even though the risk of health complications is higher if you get the virus, data shows that people with diabetes do not appear more likely to become infected with COVID-19 than people without diabetes. Race and ethnicity don’t directly increase the risk of being infected, but racial/ethnic differences impact outcomes for patients sent to the hospital with severe COVID-19. Knowing your real risk is key.
Can I visit my doctor’s office or pharmacy again?
It’s important to keep your doctor appointments and take your medications as prescribed. If you have put off or canceled an appointment due to COVID-19, it’s time to make that appointment and get back to regular care. If you have concerns, talk to your doctor by phone, email or visit their website to learn more about the safety precautions being taken at their office. You can also ask if telehealth appointments by phone or computer are an option.
When picking up medicine or prescriptions, call ahead, use a drive-through or curbside pick-up or see if your pharmacy delivers. Continue taking medications as directed by your health care professional. If you are struggling to pay for insulin, the ADA has resources to help at InsulinHelp.org.
Should I wear a mask to travel and use public transportation?
While you no longer have to wear a mask on public transportation like buses, trains or airplanes, or at transportation hubs like airports and bus stations, the CDC still recommends that masks be worn in indoor public transportation settings. To protect yourself and others when traveling continue to avoid crowds, wash your hands and use sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol. It’s important for people with higher risks to stay vigilant on the safety basics.
Will the vaccine affect my blood sugar levels?
The vaccine can cause you to feel ill and make it difficult to manage blood glucose (blood sugar) levels. It’s important to carefully monitor your blood glucose levels for 48 hours after your vaccination. Stay hydrated and make sure to have your sick day plan ready in case you don’t feel well. Also, if you feel well enough to stay active after your vaccination, walking, lifting weights or other forms of light exercise can help manage your blood glucose.
What should I do if I have been exposed to COVID-19?
If you have symptoms or have tested positive for COVID-19 you should isolate immediately. As soon as you find out you were exposed, begin wearing a mask. If you get a positive test result, stay home for at least five days. This includes isolating from others in your home because you are most contagious during this time. Depending on if you had symptoms or not, your isolation could end after day five. But if symptoms persist you may need to continue to isolate until your symptoms begin to improve or you are fever free for 24 hours without using medication. Be sure to talk to your health care provider if you have a weakened immune system or are unsure if your symptoms are moderate or severe.
To help prevent the spread of COVID-19 check out the CDC’s COVID-19 Community Levels. This gives information on the amount of severe illness in your community to help you decide when to protect yourself and others.
Learn more about COVID-19 and diabetes from the AHA and ADA.