JDRFCoronavirus (COVID-19) – information for people living with type 1 diabetes

Coronavirus (COVID-19) – information for people living with type 1 diabetes

Updated 14 October 2021 at 4.45pm.

Global headlines are dominated by news about the novel coronavirus. We know that many people with type 1 diabetes want more information and may be concerned.

Below are some useful links and information about the virus and what people with type 1 diabetes need to know.

New changes to each section have an [updated] date next to their title.

For all the latest Government measures, visit:

What is it? [updated 17Feb21]

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause respiratory illnesses. Most of them cause illness in animals, but seven known types of coronaviruses cause illness in humans. SARS-CoV-2 is one of those viruses – it causes the illness COVID-19.

You may have heard the news headlines about variants of the virus. So far, scientists believe that vaccines will still protect against serious illness from these variants – although it is possible they may not work quite as well.

As the virus continues to mutate it may mean there needs to be annual vaccines – much like what we have with the flu seasonal jab. Scientists are already working on updating the current vaccines so they offer better protection against new variants – with indications that an updated vaccine to tackle variants may be ready by the autumn, if required.

What are the symptoms and how do I get tested? [updated 14Oct21]

The symptoms of coronavirus are any of the following:

  • A new, continuous cough
  • A high temperature (fever)
  • Loss or change to your sense of smell or taste

It is important if you have symptoms, however mild, that you follow all the latest advice. Anyone in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland experiencing symptoms can book a test by visiting www.nhs.uk/coronavirus. Those unable to access the Internet can call 119 in England and Wales or 0300 303 2713 in Scotland and Northern Ireland to book a test.

Ensure you continue to monitor your blood glucose and implement your sick day rules, checking for ketones more closely. Contact your diabetes specialist team if you feel you need additional support for your diabetes, or if you feel you might be at risk of developing DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis).

For any medical emergency, continue to call 999.

Free lateral flow test kits are becoming available across the UK for anyone without symptoms. See more detail and how to order them here. The Government have produced a step-by-step guide for people with visual impairment, on how to use and return your test kits.

Coronavirus and type 1 diabetes [updated 19Jul21]

We know that the news headlines about NHS data on COVID-19 and deaths relating to diabetes are concerning. That’s why JDRF has reacted to this by posting our news article.

Not everyone living with type 1 diabetes is at higher risk of becoming severely unwell with coronavirus, or of having complications from it. However, some, especially those who are older or with underlying risk factors, which include other health conditions, social factors or ethnic minority groups, may be more severely affected and everyone is encouraged to follow the Government advice closely. This is why vaccination is so important and we encourage you to have it if you haven’t already done so.

Our comments on recent initial data are mentioned here. As further work emerges on risk factors and more specific guidance is available, we will share it. The higher risk in people with type 1 diabetes in hospital is strongly linked to older age, which is consistent with what we know about the impact of coronavirus on the general population.

Children and type 1 diabetes [updated 26Jan21]

The research and data on COVID-19 and children with diabetes is currently extremely limited.

  • Limited evidence suggests that children and young people have lower susceptibility and transmission rates of COVID-19
  • At present, there is no evidence to suggest that children with diabetes are more prone to being infected with COVID-19 compared to other children without diabetes
  • There is also no evidence that children with diabetes are more likely to be infected with COVID-19 paediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome compared to children without diabetes
  • It is important that children with diabetes continue to be vigilant, especially around handwashing and social distancing
  • Children and families should follow the principles of management of diabetes sick days rules if they are unwell and be advised not to delay access or attendance of health care provisions
  • Children and families are encouraged to continue maintaining a healthy lifestyle and to optimise their diabetes management

There is more information within this ACDC publication and here.

Coronavirus vaccines [updated 14Oct21]

You will have likely seen promising results of coronavirus vaccine development and the approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech, University of Oxford (AstraZeneca) and Moderna vaccines in the UK by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). The Janssen vaccine is also approved and will be available later this year.

Other vaccines are in development and may be licensed when they have undergone clinical studies to show safety and effectiveness. These vaccines help prevent the disease COVID-19 which is caused by coronavirus. The MHRA ensure all medicines and medical devices in the UK are safe before they can be given to the general population.

For those living with type 1 diabetes, we strongly encourage you to receive the vaccine when you are offered one. You can read more about how type 1 diabetes and coronavirus interact in the ‘Coronavirus and type 1 diabetes’ section above.

Priority groups

The JCVI (the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisations) has released guidance about priority groups and timings of vaccine deployment. There are currently nine priority groups, listed sequentially by their priority – see this link for more detail.

Unless they are 65 or older, live in a care home or work in the NHS, people living with diabetes are in group 6 (“People aged 16 to 64 years with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious illness or death from coronavirus”). New guidance from JCVI advises adults that live with other adults who are immunosuppressed are also prioritised alongside Group 6.

If you live with type 1 diabetes and are therefore in priority group six and live in England, you no longer have to wait to be invited for your vaccine. You can now also 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 currently differences in how England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are rolling out the vaccine. If you feel that you should be invited to get yours, but haven’t yet had an invite, please speak to your GP or diabetes team.

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

Children

You may have heard that the UK regulator has recently approved the Moderna vaccine, joining the Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine in receiving a green light for those over 12. The Department of Health has yet to set out whether the Morderna vaccine will be used for the age group.

All children aged 12 to 15 across the UK will be offered one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid jab. See more detail here. Most children will be given their vaccine at school.

Booster jabs and the flu vaccine

The JCVI has updated its advice on the COVID-19 vaccine booster programme. The programme will be rolled out to the same priority groups as previously, including group 6 which includes those living with diabetes. There will be flexibility in the programme allowing all those eligible to receive their booster from six months after their second doses. This approach will allow more vulnerable people to be given their boosters more quickly.

Insufficient time has passed to know what levels of protection might be expected 6 to 12 months after the primary course of the vaccine. Taking a precautionary position, the JCVI considers that on balance it is preferable to maintain a high level of protection in vulnerable adults throughout winter.

The JCVI advises a preference for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for the booster programme, regardless of which vaccine brand someone received for their primary doses. This follows data from a trial that indicates the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is well tolerated as a third dose and provides a strong booster response. Alternatively, a half dose of the Moderna vaccine may be offered. Where mRNA vaccines cannot be offered, for example due to allergies, the AstraZeneca vaccine may be considered for those who received it previously.

People who are eligible for this will be contacted by the NHS when they are due for their booster appointment. Please wait to be contacted before booking a booster dose. If you are in England, booking can be done online.

As ever, we also strongly advise you to get a seasonal jab to reduce your risk of getting flu. Remember, you can’t get the flu from the flu jab – it takes two weeks to work so you could still get the flu during that time.

Pregnancy

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.

Side effects

You may have heard about some side effects after having the vaccine. Not everyone will experience these – and if you do – they are usually very mild and won’t last longer than about 48 hours.

Oxford/AstraZenca vaccine and extremely rare, unlikely to occur, blood clots

There is more information available from MHRA (the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency) about possible links between the AstraZeneca vaccine and extremely rare, unlikely to occur, blood clots. On 7th 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 regardless of your age. If you’re worried about the vaccine or have had blood clots in the past, speak to your GP for more advice.

Common side effects include: soreness in the arm you had the vaccine, feeling tired, having a headache or general aches or feeling nauseous.

If you continue to feel unwell it’s important to implement and stick to your sick day rules recommend by your diabetes team.

You may also notice that your blood glucose levels go up after having the vaccine – this is normal and is because your body is beginning to build 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).

More information

For further detail and for the latest information, please ensure you visit the NHS Coronavirus Vaccine website or speak to your diabetes team.

If you need advice about the vaccine in another language Diabetes 101 (a group of healthcare professionals from across the NHS) have created information in other languages, including Bengali, Cantonese and Urdu.

You may have also heard about vaccine trials – this research will help increase the vaccine options available for coronavirus. You can sign up and learn more on the NHS Coronavirus Vaccine Registry.

Reducing your risk [updated 19Jul21]

As part of the four-step planned announced by the Prime Minister back in February 2021 most parts of the UK are now beginning to ease lockdown restrictions and legal limits on social contact. As things are rapidly changing please ensure you check the latest information and guidance for where you live regularly. For all the latest advice and key dates across the four nations of the UK please follow these links:

However, the advice for people living with diabetes across the UK has not changed:

  • We strongly encourage you to receive the vaccine when you are offered one – remember you no longer need to wait to be called forward (see the ‘Coronavirus vaccine’ section above)
  • Minimise contact with people outside of your household where possible
  • Try to socially distance where possible, particularly in crowded areas or poorly ventilated settings
  • Wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds
  • Wear a face covering – whilst Government advice and legal rules around wearing one are changing, it still advisable to do so

If you have diabetes and you’re planning on inviting friends or family into your home speak to them about whether they have had coronavirus symptoms in the last 2 weeks. However mild these symptoms, they shouldn’t be visiting.

We also recommend downloading the NHS COVID-19 app if you are in England or Wales, the Test & Protect app if you’re in Scotland, or the StopCOVID NI app in Northern Ireland. These are contact tracing apps which are one of the fastest ways of knowing when you’re at risk from coronavirus. The more of us that use it, the better we can control coronavirus.

Face masks and coverings [updated 19Jul21]

Face coverings can help reduce and slow the risk of virus infection. This is true for everyone, including people living with type 1 diabetes. JDRF supports the continued wearing of face masks.

Whilst legal requirements around wearing face coverings are changing, it is advisable to wear one to help prevent the risk of infection. For more information, keep up to date with your national Government websites around face coverings:

If you see others not wearing a mask, there may be invisible reasons for this. For those that are exempt from wearing a face covering, there are badges and cards that can be printed or saved onto your phone. You can find these on the Government website.

We understand that wearing a face mask can take time to get used to and may feel strange to start off with. There are various different types of face coverings available, so try and choose one that suits you best.

Shielding advice [updated 19Jul21]

Shielding was a way of protecting ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ people who were at a very high risk of severe illness and needing to go to hospital if they catch coronavirus. It meant staying at home almost all of the time, with no face-to-face contact.

Unless they have another condition, most people with type 1 diabetes were not in the shielding category; you can view more detail about those who are defined as clinically extremely vulnerable here. People with diabetes are generally in the ‘clinically vulnerable group’. So, having diabetes didn’t automatically mean you need/needed to shield.

You may have heard news that from 1st April 2021 people who are clinically extremely vulnerable will no longer be advised to shield. Everyone on the Shielded Patients List will receive a letter from Thursday 18th March informing them of the guidance changes. This will include practical steps about how to reduce the risk of catching COVID-19. Those with an email address registered with their GP may also receive an email. Whilst this is good news and shows that virus rates are continuing to fall, it is worth remembering that the most effective ways to avoid catching coronavirus and to help prevent the spread is to continue with the advice covered in the ‘Reducing your risk’ section above.

QCovid and more people in England added to the list of clinically extremely vulnerable

Back in February 2021, you may have heard the UK Government announced a new system of identifying and protecting individuals in England who were at the highest risk of serious harm if they caught coronavirus. This meant a further 1.7 million people in England were classified as ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’. Those affected were contacted directly by the NHS. This approach was England-specific – although the Governments across the four nations considered how the QCovid model could be used for their own shielding policies.

The new tool – called ‘QCovid’ – is a population risk assessment tool enabling those at higher risk – through their medical records – to be added to the shielding groups. The risk calculator is based on a number of factors including age, diabetes subtype, ethnicity, post code, weight and other conditions. It’s worth noting some of these people would have already had their vaccinations due to being in a higher priority group already – i.e. age. Those that hadn’t had their vaccination yet were invited to come forward to the NHS as a priority.

We know it will have been distressing to have been told you were ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ – especially this far into the pandemic – but we welcomed this move towards a more individualised assessment of risk and the additional protections this provides to those people with diabetes at higher risk.

Prescriptions [updated 19Jul21]

Pharmacies across the country are working hard to make sure you can get hold of what you need. It’s important to plan ahead and to check levels of your prescription items, and where possible order at least 14 days ahead before your prescription is due. Ask your prescriber about electronic repeat dispensing, so you can order your repeat prescriptions online.

It’s important that you don’t go to a pharmacy if you, or anyone in your household, have any symptoms of Coronavirus. Many pharmacies offer an online service, and are encouraging customers to choose that method and have their medication delivered. You also don’t currently need to sign for these deliveries; check with your pharmacy for further details.

If you’re self-isolating, see if family, friends or neighbours can pick up your medication for you. If you don’t have anyone who can collect your medicine, speak to your community pharmacy for advice about how they can help. There might be community or voluntary groups ready to help in your area.

If you’re well and can visit the pharmacy yourself, think about how you can help family, friends and neighbours who are self-isolating by collecting their medicines on their behalf (you may need to take ID with you and will need to know the name and address of the person you are collecting for).

Don’t ask for extra medicine. Continue to get medicines as normal and don’t stockpile.

School [updated 19Jul21]

Everyone, including children with diabetes, can get coronavirus. Usually children have very mild symptoms and we are not aware of any children with diabetes who have died from coronavirus in the UK. However, as with all people with diabetes, an illness like coronavirus can make it harder to manage a child’s diabetes and they still have a risk of DKA.

It is very important that you make sure children follow all recommendations to reduce their risk of catching it. Schools should be implementing steps to prevent the spread of the virus. We know this is easier said than done based on the size of the school and particularly with younger children.

We understand you may be worried about the safety of children returning to school if they have type 1 diabetes. As always, reach out to your usual healthcare team and your school about your concerns. The school should be able to explain their processes for risk assessments and policies to keep everyone safe.

Insulin, medicines and diabetes tech

The Government has been working with industry and partners to constantly monitor the impact of COVID-19 on the UK supply chain of medicines and technology, and have implemented measures to protect UK patients. There is absolutely no need for anyone to stockpile insulin, diabetes medicines or technology. By doing so, you could risk others by putting additional pressure on the supply chain. Pharmacies have been asked to not support any patients who are trying to stockpile.

DTN-UK have been in contact with all companies supplying insulin pump, continuous glucose monitoring and flash glucose monitoring in the UK at this time. We can reassure all users of diabetes technology that none of these companies are anticipating significant interruptions to their supply chain due to the Coronavirus crisis. We would ask that people do not attempt to stockpile supplies of consumables as this is unnecessary and may create problems for other users. If demand remains as normal, there will be no shortages. Companies may experience short term supply problems with some items, as is usual, but if this occurs these are expected to resolve quickly. You will be contacted in the event that this situation changes. Some pump manufacturers have extended their pump warranties. If your pump’s warranty will expire in the next few months, check out the manufacturer’s website for more information. See more detail here.

Emotional Wellbeing during these times

We know the type 1 diabetes community are understandably worried and anxious about the virus, and how COVID-19 might affect you, your family or friends.

We have some helpful information on our Emotional Wellbeing page, or you may like to consider calling Diabetes UK’s helpline to talk to someone. The NHS ‘Every Mind Matters’ website has some useful and practical information, too.

Work [updated 19Jul21]

Workplaces are now beginning to reopen offices. If you do need to be in a physical work location your employer should be making sure your workplace is safe to minimise any potential risk to employees, including completing a risk assessment for you. We understand not everyone feels comfortable going back to a physical office – ensure you reach out to your employer to learn about the steps they’re implementing and to discuss your commute and adjustments that can be made, especially if you need to use public transport (such as avoiding rush hour). Also discuss whether continuing to work from home is a possibility. You may also find our Workplace Toolkit useful to help aide these discussions.

Travel [updated 20Sep21]

The coronavirus pandemic has meant a massive change in the way we live, and ultimately that includes our motivations and ability to travel. We know this has meant a lot of cancelled holidays and events abroad. Recently, the UK government announced plans to simplify the traffic list system.

Current guidance from the Government has placed additional restrictions on travel and restrictions differ depending on where you live so please ensure you check the relevant guidance before traveling:

For more information about travelling with type 1 see our travel pages. You may also like to explore our airport security work and travelling with type 1 kit.

Additional information

This page will be updated as official advice changes. It is maintained by JDRF UK’s Community Engagement team and is reviewed/approved by healthcare professionals.

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