Diabetes, as we all know, is a progressive condition and can cause serious complications especially if not managed properly. Moreover, one faces a harder time to fight infections. This is where the importance of vaccination for people with diabetes comes into play. Immunization can protect you from some of the diseases that can otherwise create havoc to your blood sugar.
Read on to know the relationship between diabetes and vaccines, including what is immunisation, the importance of vaccination, recommended for diabetics, and how to be vaccinated when you have diabetes.
What is Immunisation?
Immunisation is a process wherein the person is made resilient to infectious diseases by the administration of a vaccine. Adult vaccination causes the vaccine to stimulate the body’s immune system to protect the person against the respective infection or disease.
Immunization is a proven tool for eliminating and preventing life-threatening conditions and is known to be one of the cost-effective health investments.
How does immunisation work?
To understand how adult immunization protects against diseases, we need to understand how the immune system works. The immune system consists of trillions of cells, known as the white blood cells, and their products called antibodies. These cells are located throughout the body and not just in the bloodstream or in lymph glands, skin, or lungs.
The skin and the lining of the lungs and intestine are the first defence points of the body. The tissues and the white blood cells of the part form the innate immune system. The white blood cells of the tissues detect the presence of any type of infection using the sensors on their surfaces and identify the type of pathogen or the toxins released by them. The fragments from pathogens or toxins are called antigens.
When the guardian white blood cells detect the type of pathogen present in the body, another set of white blood cells are activated called lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are categorized into two types: B-cells and T-cells. T-cells respond to the infection by releasing chemicals known as cytokines that trigger protective inflammation. Additionally, these T-cells destroy the antigens by killing the cells harbouring inside the pathogens. In the meantime, B-cells with the help of T-cells make antibodies, a complex protein to prevent pathogens or toxins to get inside the bloodstream. The antibodies then attach to the pathogens and destroy them whereas neutralise when attaching to the toxin.
Why is Vaccination for people with diabetes important?
Having diabetes increases the risk of serious complications that sometimes your immune system might find it difficult to fight. Here are a few reasons to establish the importance of vaccination for people with diabetes:
- Common diseases such as influenza can cause fluctuation in your sugar levels dangerously, thereby making you monitor your blood sugar more often.
- People with diabetes are known to be prone to Hepatitis B than the rest of the population. In fact, the cases of Hepatitis B outbreak associated with diabetes is noticeable, especially due to blood monitoring procedures such as finger-stick devices, blood sugar meters, and use of other devices.
- People living with diabetes have higher rates of mortality due to pneumonia (lung infection), bacteremia (blood infection), and meningitis (infection in the lining of the brain and spinal cord).
Immunization is one of the safest ways to prevent yourself from the above-mentioned complications despite taking the prescription medications to control your diabetes.
Now that we know what does a vaccine do and why is vaccination is essential for diabetes, let us understand the types of vaccination needed for people with diabetes:
Vaccinations for Adults with Diabetes
The following are the recommended vaccines for diabetics which should protect your health:
This is needed for people with diabetes who are known to have the risk factors for Hepatitis A or simply looking for prevention of the disease. The vaccine is provided in 2 doses with a gap of 6-12 months.
The vaccination for Hepatitis B is a must for individuals with diabetes who are below 60 years of age and have never received or completed a course of HepB vaccine. Individuals who are above 60 years and have diabetes should discuss with their healthcare professional/diabetes educator before getting vaccinated.
Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type b)
Adults who have certain high-risk conditions such as lack of a functioning spleen must take this vaccine. However, it is ideal to consult your diabetes educator to find out if you need this vaccine.
Human papillomavirus (HPV)
This vaccine is a must for individuals especially if you are a man younger than 21 years or a woman with 26 years or younger. Men aged between 22 years and 26 years who have shown the risk factors should get the vaccination; however after consulting their healthcare professional. In fact, men above the age of 26 years of age who wish to be prevented from the disease can also receive it. The vaccination is given in three doses over a 6-month period.
The vaccination for influenza is necessary every winter to keep yourself and others protected.
Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR)
Although extinct, this vaccination is important for individuals who were born in 1957 or later. In fact, there are cases when individuals might need a second dose depending on the level of the infection.
Meningococcal ACWY (MenACWY)
A MenACWY vaccine is essential for individuals who have any serious health conditions, for instance, if you lack a functioning spleen or if you are 21 years or younger who has never been vaccinated or vaccinated before the age of 16.
Meningococcal B (MenB)
The MenB vaccine is to be considered for individuals who are of age 23 or younger despite not having a serious medical condition. Else, this vaccination is to be taken for individuals who have risk factors such as if he/she does not have a functioning spleen.
Pneumococcal (Pneumovax 23, PPSV23; Prevnar 13, PCV13)
The Pneumovax vaccine is a must for people living with diabetes especially if younger than 65 years of age. In fact, people who have never received it must get 1 dose now. There are cases when you might also need to take a one-time dose of Prevnar depending on the level of the infection and the health-risk condition such as immunosuppression or if you have a non-functioning spleen. Individuals above 65 years of age should also get a shot of Prevnar in case they have not received it before and the second dose of Pneumovax if there is a gap of 5 years since your first dose. Prevnar and Pneumovax are usually spaced one year apart.
Tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough (pertussis) (Tdap, Td)
If you have never received a dose of Tdap in your lifetime, it is time to get one now. In fact, all women need to get a dose during pregnancy. Thereafter, everyone must get a dose of Td booster every 10 years and should consult their healthcare professional if you have not had at least 3 shots and diphtheria toxoid-containing shots sometime in your life.
It is essential to speak to your healthcare provider in case you have never received a vaccination or received but just one dose or never had chickenpox to understand if you need it or not.
People in old-age, especially above 50 years or above, must get the dose of Zoster which is a 2-dose series.
While National Vaccination Day is observed every year to deliver supplemental doses of poliovirus vaccine, we hope to see diabetics pledging to take vaccines every year and take a step towards overall well-being.