Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Advice for people with diabetes and their families

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Coronavirus vaccines and diabetes

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

On this page:

If you are in group six and live in England, you can book an appointment online to receive your coronavirus vaccine or call 119 free of charge, anytime between 7am and 11pm seven days a week.

Most people with diabetes are in priority group six and this group has been invited to have their vaccine. Find out more about getting your vaccine.

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.

Need advice about the vaccine in another language? Watch videos of healthcare professionals from across the NHS share information in other languages, including Bengali, Cantonese and Urdu.

Coronavirus vaccine Facebook Live with our experts

Watch our panel of experts answer your questions about the coronavirus vaccine, including how safe it is for people with diabetes. We recorded this Q&A in February 2021.

Types of coronavirus vaccines 

We know about five vaccines so far, with three 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 symptomatic 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.

More recently, we’ve seen results on the vaccine’s effectiveness against the delta variant. A study from Public Health England (PHE) of real-world data showed the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 96% effective against hospitalisation with the delta variant after two doses.

However, one dose is less effective at preventing symptomatic illness from the delta variant compared to other variants. This tells us just how crucial it is to get your second jab.

Find out more about who can get the vaccine.

Oxford/AstraZenca vaccine 

The MHRA have approved the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine for use in the UK. Results from the original clinical trial show it’s on average 70% effective against symptomatic illness.

A later study looking at effectiveness against the delta variant, showed the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is 92% effective against hospitalisation after two doses.  The study also showed that the second dose is really important to boost protection against the delta variant.  

If you’re under 40 years old

On 07 April, the UK Government’s drug regulator announced that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is no longer recommended for people under 40. First doses of the vaccine now won’t be offered to people in this age group. This is the case for all UK nations.

This is a precaution as scientists learn more about the link between the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and reports of blood clots in a very small number of people after having their first dose of this vaccine. This risk seems, at the moment, to be higher for younger people.

It’s important to know that the benefits of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines outweigh the risks of a potential blood clot in some people, including for people with diabetes. Only around 4 doses of the vaccine in each million doses given out have been linked to blood clots.

If you’ve had your first dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, and haven’t had any significant side effects, you should still take your second dose when it’s offered. This is true whether you’re under or over 30. If you’re worried about the vaccine or have had blood clots in the past, speak to your GP for more advice.

And remember, our helpline team are here to talk things through. Give us a call on 0345 123 2399 to speak to one of our highly trained advisors about any concerns.

Moderna vaccine

The most recent vaccine to be approved for use in the UK has been produced by Moderna. In their clinical trial, the Moderna vaccine wass 94% effective at stopping people develop symptomatic illness. The government ordered 17 million doses and the UK roll out began in April.

Novavax vaccine

We’ve also heard results from a clinical trial of the Novavax vaccine showing it’s 89% effective at preventing Covid-19. The MHRA will now look at all the data and decide whether to approve it for use in the UK.

The UK government have pre-ordered 60 million doses of the Novavax vaccine and expect these to start being delivered in the second half of the year.

Janssen vaccine

Janssen have announced results from their clinical trial that looked at giving just one dose of their vaccine. They showed a single dose was 66% effective at stopping symptomatic illness.

The MHRA approved the Janssen vaccine in May. The UK government has already ordered 30 million doses of the vaccine and have said it will be available in the UK later this year.

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

Booster vaccines

Although the progress is encouraging, we still don’t know how long the protection from the different vaccines will last. The JCVI have given interim advice that people most at risk from coronavirus should be prioritised for a third booter dose to make sure the protection they have from first and second doses is maintained ahead of the winter and against new variants.

The JCVI’s interim advice is that a third booster jab is offered to the following people in two stages, most likely starting from the Autumn.

The first group of people to be offered a third dose coronavirus booster vaccine could be:

  • adults aged 16 years and over who are immunosuppressed
  • those living in residential care homes for older adults
  • all adults aged 70 years or over
  • adults aged 16 years and over who are considered clinically extremely vulnerable
  • frontline health and social care workers.

In the next stage, people that could be offered a booster dose are:

  • all adults aged 50 years and over
  • all adults aged 16 to 49 years who are eligible for the flu jab or who are at higher risk from coronavirus. This includes people living with diabetes.
  • adult who live with individuals who are immunosuppressed.

This advice is interim and the JCVI has said they will keep on looking at the data and give their final advice before Autumn.

Who can get the coronavirus vaccine

Anyone aged 18 or over can get the coronavirus vaccine. Nine priority groups were identified to begin with. Group one got the vaccine first, group two followed and so on. The UK Government have invited people in group six to come forward for their vaccine. This includes people with diabetes, and we strongly advise you to go and get your first dose.

If you are in group six and live in England, you can book an appointment online to receive your vaccine or call 119 free of charge, anytime between 7am and 11pm seven days a week. 

There are differences in how England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are rolling out the vaccine. If you feel that you should be invited to get your vaccine but haven’t 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 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 priority groups covers around 99% of those at risk of dying from coronavirus.

“Getting the phone call from the GP to say it was my turn for the vaccine was a relief for me and my family. Now I’ve had it, I feel safer and less worried in general. Apart from a bit of a sore arm for a few hours later, I felt good and lucky to have been given some protection.’’

- Sarita has diabetes and just had her coronavirus vaccine.

Children

Sixteen and 17-year-olds across the UK are being offered the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as well as children

  • aged 16 and older who are clinically extremely vulnerable or clinically vulnerable due to an underlying health condition
  • aged 12 to 15 with severe neurodisabilities, Down's syndrome, immunosuppression and multiple or severe learning difficulties and
  • aged 12 to 17 who live with an immunosuppressed person.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is the only vaccine that has been authorised for children in the UK, for those aged 12 and older. If you are unsure whether your child is eligible, please contact your local health centre or GP for advice.

For more information on the Government's latest advice, read the JVCI statement on COVID-19 vaccination of children and young people aged 12 to 17 years published 19 July.

If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding

Pregnant women should be offered COVID-19 vaccines at the same time as people of the same age or risk group. Your healthcare team should talk you through the risks and benefits of getting the vaccine if you're pregnant or breastfeeding.

Read the Government's advice on COVID-19 vaccination: a guide for all women of childbearing age, pregnant or breastfeeding

What the vaccines are made of

The coronavirus vaccines do not contain meat, egg or any animal products. The vaccines are halal and kosher. 

There’s a very small amount of alcohol in some of the vaccines, around the same as there is in bread. We call this negligible, because it won’t have any effect on your body. The vaccines are still halal because the alcohol in them is at a concentration of much less than 1%. The alcohol is there to preserve the vaccine ingredients, to make sure it works.

The vaccines contain the blueprints for making tiny fragments of coronavirus. This triggers the immune system to react and start making antibodies that are ready to protect you if you later catch coronavirus.

Vaccines also contain other ingredients which are added to keep them stable and help them work better. Common ingredients in the coronavirus vaccines include sucrose (a type of sugar) and salt. These are added in extremely small quantities and won’t have any effect on the body.

You can find out full information on vaccine ingredients in the patient information leaflet for the vaccine when you are offered one. 

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.

Vaccine side effects

Not everyone taking the vaccine will have side effects. If you do have any, they are usually very mild. They normally won’t last longer than around 48 hours.

The common side effects are:

  • Your arm might feel sore where you had your vaccine.
  • Feeling tired.
  • Headaches.
  • Aches.
  • Feeling sick.

If you don’t feel well, it’s really important that you stick to any sick day rules recommended by your diabetes team.

Vaccines and blood sugar levels

Taking the vaccine may make your blood sugar levels go up.

When you get the vaccine, your body will start to produce what’s called an immune response. This is nothing to worry about. Your body is just reacting to the vaccine because the vaccine is new to you.

Your body needs energy to produce this immune response, so it may release some extra glucose (sugar). This is what leads to your blood sugar increasing.

Find out more about managing high blood sugars.

If you’ve 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 the UK is being studied by scientists. Evidence shows that it transmits more easily and the possibility that it causes more severe illness if you are infected is being looked into. There’s evidence that coronavirus vaccines work well against the new UK variant, which makes up most of the UK’s cases. 

Some cases of a variant first found in South Africa have been discovered in the UK, but this variant isn’t as common. From studies so far, scientists think that vaccines will still protect against serious illness from this variant, but that they might not work quite as well.

A regularly mutating virus could mean that we need annual vaccines – just like what happens with the flu jab – and scientists are already working on updating coronavirus vaccines so that they give better protection against new variants. Researchers have said a vaccine designed to tackle the South African variant could be ready by the autumn if needed.

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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