With now more than 12 months of COVID-19 related pandemic data and experience under our global belt, it is widely acknowledged that individuals with diabetes and other health conditions are at an elevated risk if COVID-19 is contracted.
Using population data from the first COVID-19 pandemic wave (1 March 2020 to 31 July 2020), researchers in Scotland sought to identify key COVID-19 risk factors to determine what places some people with diabetes at a higher risk than others living with diabetes. By identifying these factors, the team from the Public Health Scotland COVID-19 Health Protection Study Group and the Scottish Diabetes Research Network Epidemiology Group aimed to develop a predictive model which could be used to prioritise care or protection measures for those at higher risk in future waves and lockdowns and to also guide vaccine strategies.
The study, which included data from COVID-19 deaths that occurred both in-hospital AND out-of-hospital, was able to identify the following factors which would place those living with type 1 or 2 diabetes into a “more at risk” category:
- Greater age
- Having other health conditions such as heart disease, liver disease, and chronic lower respiratory disease
- Having a recent hospitalisation due to low blood glucose (hypoglycaemia) or diabetic ketoacidosis in past 5 years
- Having diabetes complications such as retinopathy or reduced renal function
- Blood glucose levels regularly outside of individualised recommended target ranges
- Having a history of smoking
- Having a larger number of previous hospital admissions
- Residing in aged residential care or a low socio-economic area
The scientists surmised that using the above factors and an individual’s clinical history, an increased risk score could be predicted in advance, allowing protective measures and strategies to be implemented for more vulnerable people living with diabetes when a higher risk is identified.
Overall risks of fatal or critical care unit-treated COVID-19 in the general Scottish population were elevated in those with type 1 and type 2 diabetes compared with the background population.
The results from this Scottish study and analysis largely reflect the position taken by the Australian Government for the tiered rollout of vaccines in the community, with all Australians living with diabetes (type 1 and type 2) being included in Phase 1B of the national vaccine rollout strategy, the exception being children under the age of 16.
For more information on COVID-19 vaccination rollout, please click here.