People living with type 1 diabetes have a higher risk of adverse effects from COVID-19. As such, health experts recommend that those with the condition receive the COVID-19 vaccine and booster shots.

Type 1 diabetes (T1D) describes a condition where a person’s body cannot produce sufficient insulin. To manage the condition, they must maintain their blood sugars within a sufficient range to prevent potential complications.

People with certain underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes, may have a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. This is because diabetes can affect the immune system, which may make it more difficult for the body to fight off the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19. As such, health authorities worldwide recommend taking the vaccine and including people living with diabetes within priority groups to receive it.

This article will discuss the benefits, risks, and safety of the COVID-19 vaccine for people with T1D.

All data and statistics are based on publicly available data at the time of publication. Some information may be out of date. Visit our coronavirus hub for the most recent information on the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Evidence notes that people with diabetes are more likely to develop severe complications from COVID-19. Other factors, such as age, blood sugar levels, and diabetes-related complications, can further increase this risk.

According to a 2021 review, people with T1D have a three- to four-fold higher risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms and hospitalization than those without diabetes. Furthermore, the risk of hospitalization rises considerably after the age of 40 years.

The review suggests that COVID-19 outcome severity in T1D relates to glycemic, vascular, and socioeconomic risk factors. These risk factors may include:

  • previous hypertension
  • higher glycosylated hemoglobin, or higher blood sugar levels
  • taking any antihypertensive medication other than ACE inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers
  • admission to hospital for diabetic ketoacidosis, a severe diabetes complication, within the last year
  • not using a continuous glucose monitor
  • social determinants of health such as race and health insurance status

As such, evidence suggests that vaccination is a suitable strategy to prevent potential adverse events. It also recommends that those with diabetes should be a priority to receive their COVID-19 vaccinations. Therefore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advise those with T1D to receive their full course of COVID-19 vaccines, including booster shots.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) advises that COVID-19 vaccines with current approval from the Food and Drug Administration, such as Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson, are highly effective at preventing severe illness and death.

While individuals with T1D are not at a higher risk of acquiring the virus, they have an increased risk of experiencing adverse events following infection. For example, a 2020 French study highlights a higher mortality in older adults with COVID-19 and T1D compared with those without T1D. A 2022 study notes that high blood sugars and inflammation likely contribute to these negative outcomes.

Therefore, health authorities encourage people living with T1D to receive their vaccines to reduce the risk of potential complications. Evidence notes that the vaccine can generate a robust immune response in individuals with T1D. As such, this can reduce their risk of acquiring SARS-CoV-2 and decrease the risk of experiencing severe complications from COVID-19.

The CDC assures people that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. They recommend COVID-19 vaccines for everyone 6 months and older and boosters for everyone 5 years and older, if eligible. This includes individuals living with T1D.

Health experts highlight that the COVID-19 vaccines undergo rigorous scientific standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality. Scientists continue to monitor and investigate the vaccines to ensure they are safe.

The COVID-19 vaccines are safe for those with T1D, and these individuals are unlikely to experience adverse effects. However, the CDC notes that people may experience minor side effects from the vaccine, such as:

  • pain, redness, and swelling at the injection site
  • tiredness
  • headache
  • muscle pain
  • chills
  • fever
  • nausea

The ADA notes that in March 2021, the CDC prioritized all Americans living with diabetes for COVID-19 vaccination. This includes people with both T1D and type 2 diabetes, with most states prioritizing them equally. Therefore, people should check the rules and availability of COVID-19 vaccines in their state.

Both the ADA and United States government can help people select which vaccine they want and search for providers by zip code. Depending on a person’s location, they may be able to choose where to receive their vaccines from pharmacies, health department clinics, and other healthcare providers.

COVID-19 outcomes are typically worse for people unable to manage their diabetes. Therefore, it is advisable for these individuals to maintain good glycemic control and keep their blood sugars within their target range.

In addition to getting a COVID-19 vaccine, the CDC provides the following tips to stay safe:

  • wearing a snug mask that covers the mouth and nose
  • washing hands often
  • using hand sanitizer
  • covering coughs and sneezes
  • putting used tissues in the trash
  • cleaning items that people touch often
  • avoiding crowds and maintaining physical distance when possible

Additionally, people should be alert for potential symptoms of COVID-19 and test regularly. If someone encounters someone with COVID-19 or they test positive, they should follow quarantine and isolation guidelines.

Health experts advise that people with T1D receive their COVID-19 vaccines and stay up to date with their booster shots. Research indicates that the vaccines are safe and effective for individuals with T1D and offer protection from the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

People living with T1D are at a higher risk of severe complications from COVID-19, especially if they are not managing their blood sugars, are experiencing diabetes-related complications, or have had high blood pressure. Therefore, in addition to receiving their vaccines, it is advisable to maintain safety measures, such as mask wearing and regular handwashing.