Answering Your Questions About the COVID-19 Vaccine


What is JDRF’s position on the new vaccine? JDRF celebrates the authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech

and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which we hope will be the first two of many available in the weeks to come to address this deadly pandemic. We appreciate the many research scientists, clinical trial participants, industry partners, and government officials who are making this progress possible.

COVID-19 has taken a significant toll on the diabetes community. A new study shows that people who get COVID and have diabetes, whether type 1 or type 2, have three to four times higher risk of severe illness and hospitalization. Based on this evidence, JDRF calls upon healthcare decision makers to make people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, as well as their caregivers, a high priority for receiving COVID-19 vaccines.

How do I get a vaccine?

The distribution of vaccines is being organized on a state-by-state basis following guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The initial number of doses will remain limited until additional doses are manufactured. Please refer to your state department of health to learn more.

Are the vaccines safe for people with T1D?

All data show the vaccines are safe and effective for people with T1D.

Does it matter which vaccine I get?

It does not matter which one you get. Your local state health authorities will determine which vaccine you receive, and JDRF does not recommend getting one over another. The most important thing is getting vaccinated as soon as possible.

Who will set priorities for vaccine distribution?

The CDC is establishing national guidelines for prioritizing vaccine distribution; however, states will make decisions on how and in what order the vaccine will be distributed. The decision-making process will vary in each state, with some public health officials and health systems seeking community input. A resource from Kaiser Family Foundation provides the sources for each state’s prioritization criteria.

Do people with T1D have priority in getting a vaccine?

As of December 21, healthcare personnel and residents and staff of long-term care facilities are being offered the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. JDRF supports this initial prioritization as critical to slowing the spread of this virus.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, an expert panel that advises the CDC, recommended that adults aged 75 and older and frontline essential workers* be designated as the second priority group to be vaccinated against COVID-19—called Phase 1b.

The Committee also voted to recommend that the third stage, called Phase 1c, should focus on adults 65 to 74, people 16 to 64 years old with high-risk medical conditions, and essential workers not included in the second phase of vaccination. T1D is not classified as a high-risk medical condition in this stage, but JDRF is advocating for the T1D community to be prioritized.

The recommendations now go to the CDC Director, who must sign off on them in order for them to become CDC guidance. State and local health authorities, however, will make the final decisions on how to roll out vaccination in their locales.

What is the rationale for people with T1D being prioritized?

JDRF has been closely monitoring the data on how COVID-19 affects people with T1D. The most recent data show that people with diabetes—type 1 and type 2—are more likely to have serious complications from COVID-19. There are other risk factors, which include glycemic and vascular health, ethnicity, and socio-economic status.

The bottom line is people with T1D have poorer outcomes with COVID-19 than the general population and therefore JDRF is advocating for them to receive priority access to the vaccines as they become available.

JDRF also strongly encourages decision makers to recognize the disparate impact COVID-19 has had on people of color in the United States and to prioritize health equity in its vaccine distribution plans.

Who do I talk to about getting a vaccine?

Each state is responsible for distributing the vaccine through the networks of hospitals, doctors, and pharmacies within their jurisdiction. We encourage you to visit your state’s department of health website and get in touch with your doctor to learn more about your state’s process.

Did JDRF provide input for vaccine distribution prioritization?

JDRF has provided information about COVID-19 risks to the T1D community to the CDC, including newly released data, and will continue to engage and advocate for people with T1D or T2D to be a high priority for receiving COVID-19 vaccines based on the evidence. In the Fall, we also provided input to the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine who were seeking input on a proposed framework for vaccine distribution which is being used by CDC.

How can I advocate for people with T1D to receive the vaccine earlier?

There are several steps you can take to advocate for vaccine access for people with T1D, whether for individuals seeking the vaccine or on behalf of the community. Options will vary by locality, depending on health systems and policy decision-making processes.

  • Search the internet and other news sources to identify which decision makers are relevant in your area. For you and your family, this could be your doctor, your hospital, or your local health agency. For the T1D community, this could be local hospitals, health systems, public health agencies, or elected officials.
  • Identify ways to make your voice heard, such as making phone calls, speaking at public meetings, submitting comment letters, submitting a letter to the editor of your local newspaper, or commenting on social media.
  • Develop your message, utilizing information in this FAQ (see the next question), as well as information about your experiences with T1D and the community where you live, to encourage prioritization of people with both T1D and T2D.

JDRF will continue to add to these resources for you to use, so look for more in the near future!

What message can I deliver to decision makers in my local community about vaccine prioritization for the T1D community?

  • We applaud the healthcare workers, research scientists and so many others who have helped our community during this pandemic and are now bringing us life-saving vaccines.
  • We strongly support the initial prioritization of healthcare personnel and residents and staff of long-term care facilities, and also urge decision makers to prioritize health equity in their vaccine distribution plans, given the disparate impact COVID-19 has had on people of color in the United States.
  • We want to draw attention to the latest research, which shows COVID-19 has taken a significant toll on the diabetes community.
  • A study published in December 2020 shows that people who get COVID-19 and have diabetes, whether type 1 or type 2, have three to four times higher risk of severe illness and hospitalization, compared to people without diabetes.
  • This new study is consistent with earlier data, and unequivocally demonstrates that people with diabetes are at a significantly heightened risk of severe illness and mortality due to COVID-19.
  • Based on this evidence, state vaccine distribution plans should make people with T1D or T2D – as well as their caregivers – a high priority for receiving COVID-19 vaccines.

What do we know about T1D and COVID?

  • Current evidence suggests that individuals with T1D are NOT at higher risk of contracting COVID-19.
  • Recent population-based registry studies in the UK have shown that people with type 1 diabetes have more than 3-fold level of increased risk of mortality when hospitalized due to COVID-19.
  • A new study shows that people who get COVID-19 and have diabetes, whether T1D or T2D, have three to four times higher risk of severe illness and hospitalization.
  • Specifically, the study found “after adjustment for age, race, and other risk factors, the odds of a COVID-19–related hospitalization and greater illness severity for patients with type 1 diabetes are three- to four-fold higher than patients without diabetes. This increased risk is approximately the same for patients with type 2 diabetes.”
  • Per this study, “hypertension, race, recent diabetic ketoacidosis, health insurance status, and less diabetes technology use were significantly associated with illness severity.”
  • Those at greatest risk are people with consistently elevated blood-sugar levels and those with a second comorbidity (such as obesity or heart, kidney, or lung disease).
  • This study “COVID-19 Severity Is Tripled in the Diabetes Community: A Prospective Analysis of the Pandemic’s Impact in Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes,” by Justin M. Gregory was published in December 2020 in the peer-reviewed journal Diabetes Care. It was conducted by a clinical research team at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and the University of California San Diego Medical Department. The study analyzed data from nearly 6,500 patients with COVID-19 in a regional health network, comparing factors and outcomes in patients with T1D, T2D, or no diabetes.
  • Therefore, given the higher risks of severe illness and hospitalization from COVID-19, JDRF calls for people T1D and T2D to have prioritized access to the COVID-19 vaccine.

*The committee defined frontline essential workers as first responders, teachers and other education workers, food and agriculture workers, correctional facility staff, postal workers, public transit workers, and people who work in manufacturing and in grocery stores.

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