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Managing Diabetes During the COVID-19 Pandemic

COVID-19 poses additional concerns to people living with diabetes and requires extra planning. Uncontrolled blood glucose may increase the risk of developing severe illness from coronavirus. 

We recommend refilling prescriptions and always having enough insulin on hand for at least two weeks, in the event of illness and/or quarantine. Also, be prepared with ample household items and groceries.

The UMass Memorial Diabetes Center offers telehealth services and virtual visits as an option to in-person meetings. This will allow people to connect with our care team from the convenience of home via a secure platform using a computer or mobile device.

Coronavirus and Diabetes: Type 1 & Type 2

The American Diabetes Association and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) remind us that people living with diabetes are more likely to experience severe symptoms and complications when infected with a virus. This does NOT mean a greater chance of contracting COVID-19. 

There’s not enough data to show whether people with diabetes are more likely to get the virus than the general population. The American Diabetes Association warns that diabetics are more likely to develop worse complications if they do get it. 

The CDC is currently reporting that people with type 1 or gestational diabetes might be at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. They continue to provide updates as new data becomes available.

In January of 2021, the CDC initially categorized people with type 2 diabetes (T2D) “at increased risk” of more severe illness, adding the condition to the priority list for vaccination. On March 30, following months of petitions by diabetes organizations and advocates, type 1 diabetes was finally added to the CDC's list of medical conditions that predispose adults to more severe COVID-19 illness. Massachusetts finally added T1D to the state's priority list for medical conditions on April 2. 

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NBC-10 Boston asked UMass Diabetes Center of Excellence Co-Director, Dr. David Harlan for his thoughts on the CDC's decision.

"Recent studies have clearly shown that people with type 1 diabetes have as great, or even perhaps slightly greater risk of severe COVID infection as those with type 2 diabetes," said Dr. Harlan. "All of my patients with diabetes are asking when they can get the vaccine."

cdc-david-harlan-covid-t1d

COVID-19 Vaccine Availability 

As of April 19, everyone 16 years and older became eligible to get vaccinated.

Both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approved Johnson & Johnson's vaccine on February 26, making it the third to receive authorization in the U.S. It was the first single-dose vaccine to receive approval and the only one that doesn't require ultra-cold storage.  An 11 day pause was lifted on April 23 after it was found to be safe by both the FDA & CDC. 

  • Pfizer's vaccine is for people 16 and older. After the first dose, a second “booster” shot is required 21 days later.
  • Moderna's vaccine is for adults 18 and older. It also requires two shots, with a 28-day break before the second dose.
  • Johnson & Johnson's vaccine is one single dose, approved for people 18 and older.

COVID Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions

Why is there a 15-minute waiting period after I receive my vaccination?

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health recommends observing patients for 15 minutes after vaccination out of an abundance of caution. Specifically, they recommend observing for signs of severe allergic reaction because this is a new vaccine, and it's not yet known whether there might be severe reactions that would occur in 1 in 100,000 individuals. However, if a severe allergic reaction is going to occur, it will usually begin within minutes of vaccination and be recognized during the 15 minute waiting period.

Should I expect any adverse effects from the vaccination?

The vaccines may result in arm pain and swelling, fever, chills, muscle/joint pain, diarrhea and headache. Symptoms were a bit more common following the second dose.

How will any side effects be monitored? If I have questions after I receive the COVID-19 vaccine, who can I ask?

The CDC has developed a smartphone app called V-safe. It's an after-vaccination health checker available to people who choose to use it after receiving COVID-19 vaccines. It uses text messaging and web surveys from the CDC to check in with vaccine recipients for health problems following vaccination. The system also provides telephone follow up to anyone who reports medically significant adverse events. Learn more about V-safe.

COVID-19 Vaccine Facts Sheet

Your Safety is Our Priority

Don’t Delay Care

Not being seen could cause an increase in symptoms or further deteriorate your health. Strict safety measures are in place for our patients and caregivers.

New UMass Memorial Safety Protocols


UMass Memorial has a Coronavirus Task Force staying current with CDC updates, working closely with the Worcester Department of Public Health and other health officials, and taking all readiness and safety measures. 

If you’re experiencing shortness of breath, cough or fever, have traveled to infected regions, or have had known or suspected contact with the virus - call your primary care physician. If you’re not well and have a previously scheduled doctor’s appointment - call first rather than showing up where you might expose other people.

Diabetes Sick Day Guidelines

When you’re sick, even with a simple cold, blood glucose may rise. It's always important to follow these diabetes sick day guidelines

When sick with a viral infection, people with diabetes do face an increased risk of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), commonly experienced by people with type 1 diabetes.  Learn the signs (DKA) and be sure to talk with your diabetes care team about when to check for ketones and when to contact your doctor if you have them.  

Emergency Preparedness Kits

Putting together a diabetes emergency kit and having a plan in place will help people living with diabetes effectively manage blood sugar during any emergency situation or unexpected natural disaster.