COVID-19 Vaccines for kids and teens with diabetes
By: Lala Jackson
COVID-19 Vaccines for kids and teens with diabetes. If your child with Type 1 diabetes is age 5 or above, you can now get them vaccinated against COVID-19! For what to expect, we checked in with pediatric endocrinologist and fellow person with diabetes Dr. Dan DeSalvo, who let us know that the COVID-19 vaccines should be safe and effective in youth with T1D. “Getting the vaccine is not only key to personal health, but also a selfless act to achieve herd immunity and end the COVID-19 pandemic,” he added.
While important to remember that having Type 1 diabetes itself does not seem to put anyone more at risk for contracting the novel coronavirus, diabetes care itself can be made far more complicated after contracting COVID-19 and protecting anyone with diabetes from getting the virus is our ultimate goal.
Additionally, as kids and teens head back to school or other in-person social activities, their risk of carrying COVID-19 with or without symptoms, then possibly spreading the virus to others who have not yet been able to get vaccinated, increases as well. Ensuring everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated does so keeps more people safe. That’s why we encourage everyone with diabetes to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
Are The COVID-19 Vaccines Safe For Kids And Teens With Type 1 Diabetes?
In May 2021, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was granted an EUA (emergency use authorization) by the FDA and the CDC for people aged 12 through 15. In November 2021, it was also granted an EUA for ages five through 11.
These approvals followed vaccine trials that specifically focused on how the immune systems of youth ages five to 11 and 12 to 15 would handle the vaccine, with trials for those ages six months to four years underway.
Ages five to 11 receive a much smaller dose of the vaccine than those who are older — 10mcg instead of the normal 30mcg. This dose was shown to provide a similar robust immune response for their age group. In each clinical trial, the vaccine was proven to be safe and effective, protecting all individuals from severe symptoms or outcomes of COVID-19, while having minimal and typical vaccine side effects.
Important to note is that children do not seem to be more likely to contract coronavirus or have severe outcomes from the COVID-19 disease. However, a very small number of children who did contract COVID-19 then ended up with a condition called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (MIS-C), a condition where different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs. Ensuring your child does not contract COVID-19 is the best way to prevent the possibility of MIS-C.
Additionally, as we’ve seen throughout the pandemic, disparities are abundant. Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, American Indian, Alaskan Natives, and Hispanic children have experienced significantly higher rates of infection than their peers. Non-Hispanic Black children with T1D who contract COVID-19 are four times more likely to also experience DKA.
So while generally children are less likely to contract the coronavirus, it is important to remain vigilant and continue practicing measures to protect everyone – like wearing a mask and social distancing – to keep everyone safe until we’re all safe.
Finding A Vaccine Appointment
You can find a COVID-19 vaccine appointment near you at vaccines.gov. You can also text your ZIP code to 438829 or call 1-800-232-0233 to find locations near you. Each of these resources is endorsed by the CDC.
Every vaccine taken decreases the risk and prevents the spread of COVID-19. The more people who get vaccinated quickly the better, as it means better protection for everyone and a faster road toward “back to normal.”
Managing Vaccine Side Effects: They Are Normal!
Because of the mild symptoms experienced by some, it is important to stay vigilant about blood sugar levels for the first 24 to 48 hours after receiving the vaccine. These side effects are very typical to every vaccine and include fatigue, muscle aches, headaches, and injection site soreness.
The symptoms may also impact blood sugar levels – sending them slightly high or slightly low – so check levels frequently, stay hydrated, and be familiar with your sick day routine. The mild symptoms your child may experience after the vaccine are significantly safer and more easily managed than potentially getting COVID-19 itself.
What About Kids Ages Four And Under?
In September, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said to expect data on the COVID-19 vaccine for ages two to four “before the end of the year.” The company is also currently running trials for ages six months to two years, but have not yet announced an expected timeline for this age group.
Until full approval comes, continue to practice safe measures that protect you and your loved ones from COVID-19, including doing your best to keep tight control of blood sugar levels. As Dr. DeSalvo shared with us, “for those who have not been able to get the vaccine, it remains important to wear a mask at school, work, and any indoor event.”
What Should I Do If My Child Gets COVID-19 While Waiting To Be Able To Get The Vaccine?
While most children who do contract COVID-19 do not experience severe symptoms or outcomes from the disease, it is important to remain vigilant and seek help if symptoms begin to get severe, blood sugar levels start to get unmanageable, or ketones are persistent. Remember that ketones can be in the system and DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis) can happen even if blood sugar levels appear normal.
As shared by Dr. DeSalvo, “as with any intercurrent illness, vigilant sick day management is key to preventing DKA with COVID-19. This should include frequent ketone and blood glucose monitoring (ideally with a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) if available), hydration, and insulin delivery.
“DKA is most likely to occur if you stop taking insulin in the context of illness, so don’t stop taking your insulin — you may need to drink carb-containing fluids like Gatorade for glucose levels under 180 mg/dL so that you can continue taking insulin. Hydration and insulin are key in clearing ketones. Know how to reach your diabetes care team and call them with any questions or concerns regarding sick day management. Review your sick day plan at your clinic visit so you can be prepared.”
Lala is a communications strategist who has lived with Type 1 diabetes since 1997. She worked across med-tech, business incubation, library tech, and wellness before landing in the T1D non-profit space in 2016. A bit of a nomad, she grew up primarily bouncing between Hawaii and Washington state and graduated from the University of Miami. You can usually find her reading, preferably on a beach.