Diabetes educators are familiar with the importance of self-care behaviors in reducing risks and complications associated with diabetes, but how often are vaccinations mentioned in these discussions? The regular maintenance of vaccines is particularly important for people with diabetes (PWDs), as they are at an increased risk for health problems and complications from vaccine-preventable diseases.
Here are five vaccines diabetes educators should promote among PWDs to mitigate their risks for serious diseases and complications.
- Influenza vaccine: Every year, influenza (flu) vaccine is developed to combat the rapidly adapting flu virus. Reminders for yearly flu shots are common; however, vaccination rates remain low for PWDs. Complications from the flu, such as sinus and ear infections, pneumonia (infection of the lungs) and bronchitis (infection of the tubes which carry air to and from the lungs) can lead to hospitalization or sometimes death for PWDs, so make sure to emphasize the importance of an annual flu shot as the most effective way to prevent complications from the flu.
- Tdap vaccine: The Tdap vaccine is commonly administered to protect against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis—the culprits behind lockjaw, croup and whooping cough. However, those who haven’t had their Tdap vaccine should get one as soon as possible. CDC (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends that a tetanus booster be administered every 10 years after.
- Zoster vaccine:Almost 1 in 3 people in the U.S. will develop shingles (also known as zoster and herpes zoster) at some point in their lifetime. This painful rash of blisters comes with the risk for long-lasting pain known as postherpetic neuralgia, a risk that increases with age. CDC recommends this vaccine for people age 50 years and older.
- Pneumococcal vaccine: PWDs are at increased risk for pneumonia, bacteremia (infection of the blood) and meningitis (infection of the tissue covering the brain and spinal cord)—potentially deadly infections caused by pneumococcus bacteria. Furthermore, those who get the flu have higher chances of getting pneumococcal disease. Highlighting the importance of an annual influenza vaccine is important when discussing this vaccine with your clients. CDC recommends PWDs obtain one dose of pneumococcal vaccine before the age of 65 and two more doses after.
- Hepatitis B vaccine: The hepatitis B virus (HBV) attacks the liver and can lead to serious health issues such as cirrhosis and liver cancer. HBV is transmitted through blood and other body fluids, which means PWDs using finger stick devices, blood sugar meters, insulin pens, and other diabetes care equipment should never share these devices to prevent the spread of HBV infection. CDC recommends the hepatitis B vaccine for any unvaccinated adults under the age of 60.
Once these vaccines are discussed, a plan should be made to get PWDs the vaccines they need. Diabetes educators can print CDC’s vaccine guide and fill it out with their clients, so they have a reminder at their next medical appointment. Find the vaccine guide and more info at the Healthy Living with Diabetes page.