As we move towards one year since we first learned of the Corona virus, or COVID-19 as it was eventually named, we are also moving towards what we hope will be a cure. As of March of 2021, both Moderna, Janssen and Pfizer-BioNTech have created vaccines that have been approved for use in North America. The Astra-Zenica vaccine has been approved for use in Canada. Many people, including those with Type 1 Diabetes, still wonder if it is safe to get vaccinated.
HOW SAFE ARE THE COVID-19 VACCINES?
Research suggests that both vaccines are safe for most people including those with Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes.
According to JDRF.UK, “all the vaccine trials have included the usual number of participants and no stages of development and testing have been rushed or skipped. The joint worldwide effort to find a vaccine has allowed for funding and approval processes to be fast-tracked, and manufacturing to begin early.”
It is important to note that trials of the Moderna vaccine did include individuals living with diabetes.
WHO CAN GET THE VACCINE?
Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been approved for use in people aged 16 years and over. The vaccine will be given in two doses, at least three weeks apart.
The Moderna vaccine is recommended for people aged 18 years and older. It will be given in two doses as well, but second injection should take place 28 days later.
Neither COVID-19 vaccine is currently recommended for pregnant women.
IS IT POSSIBLE TO GET COVID-19 FROM THE VACCINE?
The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are mRNA vaccines. This means that they use a piece of genetic material to create antibodies against the Corona Virus. It does not use the real virus and therefore you cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine itself.
SHOULD PEOPLE WITH DIABETES BE A PRIORITY TO GET THE COVID-19 VACCINE?
It is widely agreed that the first people to be injected with the COVID-19 vaccine should be healthcare professionals followed by those in senior or long-term care homes. Which individuals should be prioritized after that remains a bit controversial.
In the UK, people with diabetes are currently listed as a priority 6.
In Canada and the US, there is no consensus on priority beyond healthcare workers and the elderly. The JDRF in both countries however are lobbying to have people with Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes a priority for vaccinations.
WHAT CAN I EXPECT WHEN I GET THE IMMUNIZATION?
Like all immunizations, you can experience some side effects. Many symptoms are simply your body’s response to the foreign antibodies and indicate that the vaccine is working.
According to the Moderna website, the most common side effects from their vaccine are
- Pain in the arm where you got the shot.
- Possible swelling or redness at the injection site.
The known side effects from the Pfizzer vaccine are the same.
Side effects usually start within a day or two of getting the vaccine and leave within a few days.
According to Dr. Justin M. Gregory MD, MSCI (who also lives with Type 1 Diabetes), when people with Type 1 Diabetes – and to some extent Type 2 Diabetes – are getting the COVID-19 vaccine they should monitor themselves as if they were navigating a sick day.
DO I REALLY NEED TO HAVE THE COVID-19 VACCINE IF I HAVE TYPE 1 DIABETES?
Absolutely. While it was once thought that only those with Type 2 Diabetes were at an elevated risk for complications from the corona virus, a recent study from the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville found otherwise.
Between March and August 2020, researchers examined those with both Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes. It was discovered that both groups had between a three- and fourfold greater risk for COVID-19 hospitalization and greater illness severity than people without diabetes after adjustments for age, race, and a number of other risk factors.
Risks of COVID-19 complications were diminished in those who could avail of technology like insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors. This may further reflect their financial status and ability to afford better health care when they became sick.
WHICH VACCINE SHOULD I GET?
There seems to be little minimal difference in effectiveness between the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. The most important part is simply to get the vaccine no matter which company makes it.
HOW LONG WILL I BE PROTECTED?
This is the million-dollar question that remains to be seen. There is currently no evidence on how long the protection from the different vaccines will last.
There is also no evidence on how effective the vaccines will be in stopping the spread of virus between people.
Finally, we do not yet know how long it will take the body to build up protection, especially since currently two injections are needed.
WILL I BE PROTECTED FROM THE NEW STRAIN OF COVID-19?
Manufacturers and scientists all believe that people who receive the COVID-10 vaccine will be protected from the new, faster spreading COVID-19 variation.
In an interview with CTV.ca, Jean-Paul Soucy, a PhD student at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health noted that current data shows that COVID-19 vaccines will “likely work” against this new variant (B.1.1.7 variant).
January 8th, 2021, Pfizer released their latest study on the effectiveness of their vaccine on the new B.1.1.7 variant of COVID-19 that has been found in the UK and South Africa. They are confident that their vaccine is effect in preventing this new strain as well as the previous COVID-19 strain.
In the meantime, experts remind people to follow current public health measures. Maintain physical distancing, wear face coverings and frequently wash your hands.