People with diabetes and obesity should be prioritised for COVID-19 vaccination


Continuity of treatment for all patients with diabetes and obesity recommended as part of COVID-19 response

People with diabetes and people with obesity should be prioritised for early COVID-19 vaccination, according to both Metabolic Doctors and Diabetes Ireland.

The Irish Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism (IrSPEN) said that diabetes and obesity have emerged as significant underlying risk factors for developing severe illness from COVID-19 – and these patients should also be prioritised for continuity of treatment during the pandemic.

IrSPEN spokesperson and Obesity Specialist at St Vincent’s University Hospital Professor Carel le Roux said: “Intensive Care Units (ICUs) are currently filling up with many younger patients who have  underlying diabetes and obesity and have contracted COVID-19.

“Patients with more severe obesity and with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes are at most risk, but are now not being ventilated as quickly as in the first wave, because we understand that the reason their oxygen levels become so low has as much to do with their underlying condition, rather than the coronavirus being the sole cause.

“Diabetes and obesity cause inflammation of small blood vessels around the lungs and other organs – and this is then exaggerated by COVID-19.

“This understanding highlights the importance of continuity of all existing treatments for patients with diabetes and obesity as a part of managing the impact of the virus. It also highlights the importance of vaccinating this cohort of patients to minimise hospitalisations,” he said.

Diabetes Ireland Advocacy Research Manager Dr Anna Clarke said: “We now know that the worse the control of diabetes, the higher the risk of serious complications with COVID-19. Medical research over the past 10 months shows the importance of people with diabetes and/or obesity continuing to take their medications and attend appointments, even if these are virtual.”

St. Vincent’s University Hospital Consultant Surgeon and IrSPEN member Professor Helen Heneghan said: “The consensus amongst Metabolic Doctors who specialise in treating these conditions is that these patients should be prioritised both for vaccination – and continuity of care.

“Many patients with diabetes and obesity have had their treatments postponed or deprioritised within hospital care in recent months. The relationship between these conditions and the development of severe illness from COVID-19 means we should continue to treat patients.”

Dr Mick Crotty, a Dublin based GP added: “Our thinking about the virus has changed from it causing a disease of the inside of the lung towards considering it as a disease that reduces blood flow immediately outside the lungs, thus reducing oxygen transport. The virus accelerates underlying complications of diseases such as diabetes and obesity.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has alerted us to the vulnerability of patients with diabetes and obesity and these patients should be prioritised for vaccination. We should redouble efforts to help these patients through the COVID-19 pandemic, and doing so would benefit hospitalisation and mortality rates.”

More than a million people in Ireland has obesity and more than 200,000 have diabetes, and they should be prioritised for the vaccine.

See also www.irspen.ie

Further Information

Ronan Cavanagh, Cavanagh Communications: (086) 317 9731.

About IrSPEN

The Irish Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism (IrSPEN) is a multi-disciplinary professional organisation dedicated to optimising screening for and management of those at risk of malnutrition or other nutritional problems in Ireland, whether in hospital or in the community.

Founded in 2010 with the support of the Irish Society of Gastroenterology (ISG), the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute (INDI) and the Irish Section of the Nutrition Society, IrSPEN members are clinicians, dietitians, nutritionists and other health professionals from clinical practice, research and education. Together our aim is to combat malnutrition by optimising the nutritional management of patients in hospital and the community.