Melissa Young, MD: The Importance of Flu Shots in High Risk Diabetics

August 24, 2020

An endocrinologist from New Jersey discusses the importance of flu shots in high-risk diabetic patients.

While we are all still dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, we must not forget that patients with diabetes are also at risk of other preventable infections. Flu season will be upon us soon and our patients should be getting their vaccines.

It is recommended that those with diabetes receive a flu vaccine annually. The Centers for Disease Control also recommends that people with diabetes receive the pneumococcal vaccines PCV13 and PPSV23, the vaccines against hepatitis B and Herpes Zoster (shingles) and the Tdap vaccine (against tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough).

Unfortunately, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, people with diabetes are not receiving the vaccines that the CDC recommends. In 2015, only 61.6% of adults with diabetes had received a flu vaccine. Only about half had received a pneumococcal vaccine and less than a fifth (17.1%) had had the 3 doses of the hepatitis B vaccine. And of those over the age of 60, just over a quarter (27.2%) had received a shingles vaccine.

People with diabetes, even when well-managed, are more likely to have complications of infections than those without diabetes. Furthermore, when patients with diabetes get an infection, it can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis. It is, therefore, imperative that we, as physicians, educate our patients on the importance of vaccines.

We need to dispel their doubts and suspicions about the dangers or inefficacy of vaccines.

There is a lot of misinformation on social media and other internet sites. We need to direct patients to other educational resources. The CDC has patient information regarding vaccines. The Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine had a nice commentary last year on how to respond to flu vaccine doubters.

Every year, thousands of people are hospitalized with influenza and pneumonia. In addition to the detriment that causes the individuals, it also poses a challenge to the health care system and utilizes significant health care resources. In a year when those resources are already being stretched thin, it is of utmost importance this year to help our patients prevent illness and prevent hospitalizations and emergency room visits.