Researchers with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that children who have recovered from COVID-19 may be at an increased risk of being diagnosed with diabetes.
The CDC’s analysis was published in the organization’s January 7, 2022, edition of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
The New York Times reported the results January 7, 2022, (subscription may be required to view full article).
According to The New York Times article, “…The CDC study is among the first to examine large insurance claim databases in the United States to estimate the prevalence of new diabetes diagnoses in children under age 18 who had COVID or were known to be infected with the coronavirus.”
It is important to note that the study—which does not differentiate between type 1 diabetes (T1D), type 2 diabetes (T2D) or any other form of diabetes—only highlights an association born out in the data examined.
The study does not identify how COVID-19 could cause (or provide evidence that it does cause) an increased risk of diabetes in children.
“As a research organization, JDRF will continue to analyze and update our community about these and other data related to COVID-19,” said Sanjoy Dutta, Ph.D., Vice President, Research, at JDRF. “Other data globally have not shown an association between COVID-19 and diabetes onset, and we are in discussions with clinical leaders to further assess the evidence. In the meantime, we urge the public to be alert to signs of T1D, and take steps such as vaccination to protect you and your loved ones.”
The CDC study is based on a summary of findings from two U.S. medical claims databases, IQVIA and HealthVerity.
The examined data from the two databases focused on approximately 500,000 children under the age of 18 years who had a COVID-19 diagnosis between March 1,2020 and June 28, 2021.
Diabetes incidence in COVID-19 positive individuals was 166 percent higher in the IQVIA cohort and 31 percent higher in the HealthVerity cohort (both compared to COVID-19 negative individuals).
There was no significant difference in diabetes incidence between the age sub-groups or sexes.
Additionally, there is no information in the examined data about other health conditions that could also be associated with a diabetes diagnosis (such as body mass index, blood pressure, etc.). It also does not account for race/ethnicity differences, or comparison with other cohorts that may have differential healthcare access (including less-than-adequate healthcare access).
Vaccines Safe, Effective for T1D Populations
Getting vaccinated is everyone’s best line of defense against severe illness and hospitalization resulting from COVID-19.
All data show the approved COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective for people with T1D. Vaccines were tested in people with diabetes (9.4% of Moderna, 8.4% of Pfizer-BioNTech, and 0.5% of J&J trial participants had diabetes) and no adverse effects were reported in these populations.
We do not have any information on the number of people with T1D in these trials, nor about T1D-specific adverse events reported yet in scientific literature, but there is no evidence at the moment to indicate that these vaccines are unsafe for people with T1D.
Staring in fall 2020, JDRF successfully advocated that those with T1D be categorized as high priority for receiving COVID-19 vaccines.
Our efforts were guided by data that shows adults who contract COVID-19 and have diabetes—whether T1D or T2D—have three to four times higher risk of severe illness and hospitalization than do people without diabetes.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted approval for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine (marketed as “Comirnaty”) in individuals 16 years of age and older. In addition, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine continues to be available under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to children 12 to 16 years of age. Recently the FDA granted EUA to children 5 to 11 years of age.
The FDA has also granted an EUA for the Moderna and Janssen (J&J) vaccines in people 18 years and older.
No vaccines yet are approved for children ages 6 months to 4 years, but Pfizer is conducting clinical trials for kids in this age group.
When people with T1D have a sickness, e.g. fever, flu, etc., it’s important to follow the guidelines that your practitioner provides. It is possible that a vaccination, like the COVID-19 vaccine or otherwise, can lead to illnesses with similar symptoms. If you become ill following a COVID-19 vaccination, please consult your doctor and follow sickness-related guidelines on our Coronavirus resource page.
If a person with T1D is infected with COVID-19, this can increase the risk for hyperglycemia and, if it’s not addressed, diabetic ketoacidosis. People should not delay seeking medical attention when these symptoms are noted.
Learn more about T1D and COVID-19 vaccines by consulting our COVID-19 Vaccine Access Guide.
Know the Signs of T1D
According to The New York Times article about the CDC’s data analysis, “Many of the children in the study were only diagnosed (with diabetes) after having an episode of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a (potentially) life-threatening complication that occurs when the body doesn’t have enough insulin to allow blood sugar into cells for use for energy.”
As members of the T1D community know all-too-well, DKA is very frightening and happens all too often at diagnosis.
To help prevent DKA at diagnosis, parents, spouses, and other caregivers should be aware of the signs of T1D, and seek advice from healthcare providers if they spot any of the following:
- Frequent urination
- Increased thirst
- Dry mouth
- Itchy or dry skin
- Increased appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
- Yeast infections
Learn more about T1D symptoms by consulting our Early Symptoms of Diabetes resource page.
Importance of Screening
Screening for T1D autoantibodies can also help reduce one’s chances of DKA at diagnosis.
T1Detect is JDRF’s screening education and awareness program that provides an avenue for screening that is open to anyone of any age* who wants to be aware of whether they or their loved ones could develop T1D.
It is the first screening program in the United States that does not require a family connection to T1D or limit participation to people who are 44-years-old or younger. This is significant as more than 90 percent of people diagnosed with T1D do not have a relative who has been diagnosed with T1D, and T1D can be diagnosed in people of any age.
The blood test, produced by JDRF’s clinical lab partner, Enable Biosciences, is simple and self-administered at home. It comes at a moderate cost and discounted tests are available.
Watch our step-by-step video instruction of how it works.