If you have diabetes, staying up to date with recommended vaccines is as important to your health as diet and exercise.
People with diabetes are at higher risk for serious complications from certain vaccine-preventable diseases, including influenza (flu) and COVID-19.
Diabetes, even when well-managed, can make it harder for the immune system to fight infection, which can increase the risk of getting certain diseases.
What Vaccines Do People with Diabetes Need?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following vaccines for people with diabetes:
Everyone age 6 months and older should stay up to date on COVID-19 vaccines.
Having either type 1 or type 2 diabetes can make you more likely to get very sick from COVID-19. In addition, research suggests that adults who have been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 are more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes.
Everyone age 6 months and older should get vaccinated against flu every year.
Flu can raise blood glucose to dangerously high levels. People with diabetes are at higher risk of serious complications from flu, including hospitalization and even death. Adults with diabetes are 6 times more likely to be hospitalized and 3 times more likely to die from flu-related complications.
Read more about flu in people with chronic health conditions
People with diabetes have a higher risk of hepatitis B virus infection. Hepatitis B can be spread through sharing of blood sugar meters, finger stick devices, and insulin pens. Once infected, some people can carry the virus their whole lives as a chronic infection which can lead to liver cirrhosis, liver cancer, and death.
Vaccination is particularly important for those with diabetes. To help prevent the spread of hepatitis B, never share diabetes care equipment, and talk with a healthcare professional about hepatitis B vaccination.
Pneumococcal disease is caused by bacteria that can attack different parts of the body and can cause pneumonia (lung infection), bacteremia (blood infection), and meningitis (infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord).
People with diabetes are increased risk of hospitalization and even death from complications of pneumococcal disease.
Pneumococcal vaccination is recommended for:
- All children younger than age 2 years
- All adults age 65 years and older
- Individuals age 2 to 64 years with certain chronic health conditions or other risk factors (including diabetes)
Read more about pneumococcal disease in people with chronic health conditions
Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a common respiratory virus that infects the nose, throat, lungs, and breathing passages. Although it typically causes mild, cold-like symptoms, RSV can be serious for infants, young children, and older adults, and can lead to severe illness and hospitalization. Adults with diabetes are at increased risk of hospitalization due to RSV.
If you are age 60 years or older, talk with a healthcare professional about getting vaccinated against RSV.
Shingles (Herpes Zoster)
Shingles is a viral infection that can cause a painful rash, severe nerve pain, and other symptoms, including loss of vision or hearing.
Shingles vaccination is recommended for all healthy adults age 50 years and older, and for adults age 19 years and older who have weakened immune systems because of disease or therapy.
Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis
Everyone age 2 months and older should be vaccinated against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough). Most infants receive a combined vaccine called DTaP (diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis). Adults, older children, and adolescents should receive a booster of the combination vaccine, Tdap (tetanus-diphtheria-acellular pertussis) or Td (tetanus-diphtheria), every 10 years. Pregnant women should also receive a dose of Tdap vaccine during each pregnancy.
These vaccines protect against 3 potentially serious diseases:
- Tetanus can cause severe muscle spasms, leading to “locking” of the jaw, making it hard to open the mouth or swallow. In severe cases, tetanus infections can lead to death.
- Diphtheria can lead to breathing problems, heart failure, paralysis, and sometimes death
- Pertussis (whooping cough) can cause coughing spells that are so severe that it can be hard to breathe, sleep, or eat
Talk with a healthcare professional about recommended vaccines. If your healthcare professional does not offer the vaccines you need, ask for a referral to ensure you get all of the vaccines recommended for you.
Reviewed January 2024
Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Diabetes Association