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Let’s Go Get Our Vaccine!

By Matthew Garza

Now that all adults in the US are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, we encourage everyone, especially people with diabetes or obesity, to get the vaccine as soon as they can. Plus, what does the data show about vaccination so far in the diabetes community?

The COVID vaccine rollout has been quickly picking up steam. In early April, President Biden announced that the deadline for states to make all adults eligible for the vaccine would be moved up to April 19. Though this is great news for the country, and a step toward a new normal on the horizon, the priority status for people with diabetes or obesity that was granted by many states over the past few months will no longer be in place. What does this mean?

Starting on April 19, anyone over the age of 18 will be allowed to sign up for vaccination appointments – no more confusing rules and restrictions. For people with diabetes and obesity, if you have not already scheduled your vaccination appointment, you will join the line along with everyone else and your ability to book an appointment may now be affected by vaccine supply and vaccination site capacity.

The good news is that tens of thousands of pharmacies across the US will soon begin participating in the federal pharmacy vaccination program, and the federal government will be opening 12 additional mass vaccination sites in states including Tennessee, Wisconsin, Maryland, South Carolina, Colorado, and New Mexico. This means that there will be more vaccine appointments available – visit vaccinefinder.org to find an appointment in your area. If you are having trouble getting a vaccine appointment, contact your healthcare office to see if they can help. For people with diabetes and chronic weight conditions, know that nothing about your condition will be asked or disclosed when you arrive – no getting weighed, or reporting A1C level.

Who’s been vaccinated so far? According to the New York Times, the United States is currently providing about 3.2 million doses of the vaccine each day, and as of April 19, 131 million people have received at least one dose of a vaccine (including almost 84 million people who have been fully vaccinated). However, the percentage of people vaccinated varies from state to state. In Alabama, Georgia, and Utah 18% of the adult population is fully vaccinated, compared to 32% in Connecticut, New Mexico, Maine, and Rhode Island. In Mississippi 29% of adults have received at least one COVID shot, compared to 58% in New Hampshire.

Market research company dQ&A recently shared enlightening data from a survey of almost 5,200 people with diabetes. As of March 16, 50% of the survey participants with type 1 diabetes and 51% of participants with type 2 diabetes had not received a COVID vaccine. White individuals with type 2 diabetes were much more likely than their Black counterparts to have received at least one dose of the vaccine. People with a higher income were also much more likely than those with lower incomes to have received the vaccine. Among respondents:

  • 50% of white people with type 2 diabetes had received at least one dose.

  • 38% of Black people with type 2 diabetes had received at least one dose.

  • 65% of people with a household income above $200k had received the vaccine.

  • 56% of people with a household income between $100-200k had received the vaccine.

  • 53% of people with a household income of $50-100k had received the vaccine.

  • 42% of people with a household income below $50k had received the vaccine.

The data also indicates trends on vaccine hesitancy. Among those individuals who were not vaccinated, only 64% said they intended to get the vaccine when eligible. The survey found that the majority of people with diabetes choosing not to get vaccinated cited concerns about vaccine side effects, safety, and efficacy.

It’s important to note how bias has played into our understanding of vaccine hesitancy – especially who is exhibiting the most vaccine hesitancy versus who actually has access to the vaccination. Though Black and white Americans show similar rates of vaccine hesitancy, racial disparities mean that Black people and people of color are less likely to be able to access the vaccine. NPR has an article highlighting this issue: “Addressing Racial Divides In Health Care Seen As Key To Boosting Black Vaccination.”

Widespread vaccination is essential to ensuring that the country can open without putting people at risk. While the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been paused and is under review for very rare side effects (more on that below), the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are being administered according to plan. President Biden has said that the US has enough of these two vaccines that every single American will be able to get vaccinated.

For now, here’s what you should know about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine: On April 13, the CDC and FDA issued a statement encouraging states to pause distribution of this vaccine. Why? Of the almost seven million doses that have been administered in the US, eight cases of rare and severe blood clots were reported. The vaccine pause will allow federal agencies to review the data; as it stands, experts have advised that these incidents seem to be extremely rare. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that a decision about resuming use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should come by the end of this week.

Learn more about the COVID vaccines in our article: “What You Should Know About COVID-19 Vaccines and Diabetes.” The Obesity Action Coalition also has a helpful resource for people with obesity and what they to know about the vaccines.

If you haven’t already been vaccinated, we urge you to sign up for your COVID vaccine as soon as an appointment becomes available to you. Getting vaccinated, along with maintaining safety precautions like wearing a mask and social distancing in public are the best ways to protect ourselves and our communities. So run, don’t walk to that vaccination appointment, and let’s continue to fight this pandemic together!