The risk for increased COVID-19 severity in people with type 1 diabetes appears similar to that of type 2 diabetes, contrary to some official advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The new finding indicates that people with both types should be priority for receiving a vaccine, investigators say.
The study is the first to prospectively evaluate both inpatients and outpatients and to examine COVID-19 severity factors in addition to death in people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes separately, and was published online Dec. 2 in Diabetes Care.
Among the patients, who were seen at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., between March and August of 2020, those with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes had between a three- and fourfold greater risk for COVID-19 hospitalization and greater illness severity compared with people without diabetes after adjustments for age, race, and a number of other risk factors.
This finding is important since as of Dec. 1, 2020, the CDC has classified the diabetes types differently in terms of underlying medical conditions that increase the risk for severe COVID-19.
Adults of any age with type 2 diabetes are considered “at increased risk of severe illness” from the virus that causes COVID-19 whereas the CDC says those with type 1 “might be at an increased risk.”
Lead author of the new paper Justin M. Gregory, MD, said in an interview: “I think this needs revision based on the current evidence. I think the data presented in our study and that of Barron et al. in Lancet Endocrinology 2020 indicate the need to place type 1 diabetes at parity with type 2 diabetes.
“These studies indicate both conditions carry an adjusted odds ratio of three to four when compared with people without diabetes for hospitalization, illness severity, and mortality,” he stressed.
Vaccines look promising for patients with diabetes
There were no phase 3 vaccine data available for the vaccine at the time that Dr. Gregory, of the Ian M. Burr Division of Pediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn., and colleagues were writing their manuscript in late summer, so the article does not mention this.
But now, Dr. Gregory said, “Based on the initial press releases from Pfizer and Moderna, I am now optimistic that these vaccines might mitigate the excess morbidity and mortality from COVID-19 experienced by patients with diabetes.
“I am eager to see what we learn on December 10 and 17 [the scheduled dates for the meetings of the Food and Drug Administration’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee to review the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, respectively].”
But with the winter pandemic surge in the meantime, “Our investigation suggests that as COVID-19 hospitalizations rise, patients with both type 1 and 2 diabetes will comprise a disproportionately higher number of those admissions and, once hospitalized, demonstrate a greater degree of illness severity,” he and his colleagues said.
“In light of these data, we call on our colleagues to emphasize the importance of social distancing measures and hand hygiene, with particular emphasis on patients with diabetes, including those in the most vulnerable communities whom our study affirms will face the most severe impact.”