Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Advice for people with diabetes and their families

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Coronavirus vaccines and diabetes

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Updated 07 January: This page is up to date but we will continue updating it regularly as we find out more information about the vaccines.

Here we explain what we know about the coronavirus vaccines so far, including how they work and when they will be available for people with diabetes.

If you have diabetes, we strongly encourage you to get the coronavirus vaccine and take whichever vaccine you're offered. This is because people with diabetes are vulnerable to developing a severe illness if they do get coronavirus, and vaccines are the most effective way to prevent that from happening.

Most people with diabetes are in priority group six.

Latest news about the coronavirus vaccines 

We know about three vaccines so far, with two of these being used in the UK now.

Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine

The first of these was developed by Pfizer/BioNTech. The results from their clinical trial showed the vaccine to be 95% effective at protecting people against developing Covid-19 after two doses, and suggested that in the period between doses it was 52% effective. This vaccine has now been approved to use in the UK by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). 

The MHRA is responsible for making sure all medicines and medical devices used in the UK work and are safe, and have to approve any new vaccines before they can be given to members of the public in the UK.

Find out more about when you can expect to get the vaccine.

Oxford/AstraZenca vaccine 

The next vaccine the MHRA have approved for use in the UK is the Oxford/AstraZenca vaccine. Results show that this vaccine is 73% effective after the first dose. After two full doses it’s on average 70% effective, with the second dose being really important to give longer term protection.  

The government is now prioritising vaccinating as many at risk people with the first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech or Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines as possible. People will get their second dose within three months of the first. 

Moderna vaccine

The most recent vaccine to be approved for use in the UK has been produced by Moderna. The Moderna vaccine is 94% effective. The government have ordered 17 million doses, which will start being delivered to the UK from Spring.

Although the progress is encouraging, we don’t know how long the protection from the different vaccines will last. We also don’t know how effective the vaccines will be in stopping the spread of the virus between people. 

The government has also ordered vaccines from four other companies, who haven’t shared results from their trials yet. We will continue to update this page when we know more.

Who can get the coronavirus vaccine

Everyone in the UK will be split into nine priority groups to begin with. Group one will get the vaccine first, group two will follow and so on. The government hope to be able to offer everyone in the top four priority groups their first dose by mid-February. 

There may be differences in how England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland roll out the vaccine, so we will continue to update you with the latest information here. 
If you feel that you should be invited to get your vaccine but haven’t been yet, speak to your GP and talk it through with them.

Priority groups:

  1. Elderly care home residents and their carers
  2. Everyone 80 years old and above, and frontline health and social care workers
  3. Everyone 75 years old and above  
  4. Everyone 70 years old and above, and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals
  5. Everyone 65 years old and above 
  6. People aged 16 to 64 years with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious illness or death from coronavirus. This group includes people with all types of diabetes.
  7. Everyone 60 years old and above
  8. Everyone 55 years old and above 
  9. Everyone 50 years old and above 

You can find more guidance about who should get a vaccine, and when from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisations (JCVI). JCVI estimates that the total number of people in these groups covers around 99% of those at risk of dying from coronavirus. After these nine priority groups have had the vaccine, there will be a second phase of vaccination for the rest of the population. 

Children  

Most children can’t have the vaccine right now. This is because coronavirus vaccines haven’t been tested in children yet and children remain at a very low risk of developing a severe illness if they catch coronavirus. 

The Oxford/Astra Zeneca vaccine may be given to children who are 16 or 17 years old if they are clinically extremely vulnerable or if they have an underlying health condition, like diabetes.

As trials with children are completed, we’ll get a better understanding of how safe and effective the different vaccines are within this age group.  

If you’re pregnant

If you’re pregnant and have a high risk of catching coronavirus or have an underlying health condition, like diabetes, you should be offered a vaccine. Your healthcare team should talk you through the risks and benefits of getting the vaccine. 

If you’re trying to get pregnant, it’s safe to keep trying before and after you’ve had the vaccine.

Are the vaccines safe?   

We know that some people may still be worried about how quickly the vaccines are being developed. But this has been possible because scientists, governments and industry all around the world have focused their attention on this one shared goal.  

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. This, alongside using existing technologies in the vaccine development, is why they have been developed quicker than usual.  

The MHRA will also continue to monitor the vaccines over time and make sure vaccinations follow a very high standard. And it’s also useful to know that the vaccines have been tested in men and women of different ages and ethnicities, with a range of health conditions – including diabetes.  

We know from previous research that the immune response to fighting coronavirus in people with diabetes is no different to people who don’t have diabetes. So there’s no evidence to suggest that the vaccine will work less well in people with diabetes.

If you’re had an allergic reaction to vaccines

If you’ve had a severe allergic reaction to a vaccine, medicine or food before, it’s safe to have any of the coronavirus vaccines unless you’re allergic to the specific vaccine ingredients. 

Your GP will talk this through with you if you have a history of allergic reactions and monitor you for about 15 minutes after the jab. Speak to your healthcare team if you’re worried about this or have more questions about your previous reactions.

If you’ve had the flu jab

We know that coronavirus vaccine trials have included people who’ve also had a flu jab. Public Health England (PHE) have also said that there aren’t any safety concerns around having both vaccines.

Experts think that it’s unlikely there would be any interaction between the two vaccines that would impact on how well they work. But PHE do recommend leaving a 7-day gap between getting a flu and a coronavirus vaccine.

This would allow for any side effects you may notice, like a headache or a sore arm, to be traced back to the right vaccine. This will be important as the MHRA will continue to track the safety of coronavirus vaccines as they are introduced. 

Other strains of coronavirus

It’s normal for viruses to pick up small changes over time as they’re passed on from person to person. This has been happening with coronavirus since it started spreading across the world and it does not necessarily make a virus more dangerous. The new variant identified in some regions of England is being studied by scientists, and while there is some evidence to suggest that it may be easier to transmit there is no evidence so far to suggest that it influences how severe the illness will be if you are infected or how well the coronavirus vaccines being rolled out will work. 

A regularly mutating virus could mean that further down the line updates to the coronavirus vaccines might be needed – just like what happens with the flu jab. Scientists will be closely monitoring how coronavirus adapts and changes as vaccines are rolled out more widely, so that they’ll be prepared for this if it becomes necessary.

Taking part in a coronavirus vaccine trial  

The encouraging news about vaccines is thanks to the many volunteers who have taken part in the clinical trials. But volunteers are still needed for more trials. This research will help to increase vaccine options for coronavirus.   

If you’re interested in taking part, you can sign up to the NHS’s coronavirus vaccine registry to be contacted about taking part in approved vaccine studies in the UK.

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