Ask the Pharmacist
By Tara Storjohann, with Pilar Mackey
Vaccinations especially vital to diabetics
As a community pharmacist, I have many patients with diabetes who are looking for ways to stay healthy and prevent complications from having high blood sugars. Most recommendations I have are life-long commitments such as diet changes or taking daily medications. However, there is something I can recommend that is safe, easy and doesn’t require daily attention: getting vaccinated against five key diseases. Read on to find out which vaccines are recommended for the more than 30 million patients in the United States with diabetes.
Getting the flu can raise your blood sugar levels higher than normal. It is also harder for patients with diabetes to fight off the flu. It is recommended that all patients with diabetes receive the flu vaccine every year. It is important to get it every year because the strains of the flu the vaccine prevents change from year to year based on what the most popular types of flu are in that specific flu season.
People with diabetes have a higher risk of hospitalization and death from this lung disease. Depending on the patient’s age, it is recommended to receive two or three vaccines to prevent against pneumonia. If you are diagnosed with diabetes before the age of 65, it is recommended to get three vaccines and if you are diagnosed at age 65 or older, you should receive two pneumonia vaccines. There are two different pneumonia vaccines out there (Pneumovax 23 and Prevnar 13). Your pharmacist and/or doctor can help determine which of the two vaccines, if any, you are due for.
It is very important for diabetics to be protected against pertussis (also known as whooping cough), because it can lead to more serious complications if not vaccinated. All patients, regardless of diabetes status, should have one dose of the vaccine that contains tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis vaccine (Tdap). This vaccine can replace one of your 10-year tetanus boosters, but you do not have to wait 10 years after your last tetanus booster to get it. Talk to your pharmacist or doctor about getting the Tdap vaccine today!
People with diabetes are more at risk of contracting hepatitis B than nondiabetics due to the fact it is transmitted by blood and diabetes requires handling of blood to test sugar levels. This disease affects the liver and can cause long-term health problems. The hepatitis vaccine is given in either a two- or three-dose series – it depends on what brand of vaccine is used. Your pharmacist and/or doctor can help determine which hepatitis B vaccine is best for you.
Shingles is a very painful and contagious virus, caused by the same virus as the chicken pox. All diabetics ages 50 and older should receive the two-dose shingles vaccine series (Shingrix) spaced two to six months apart. You may have had the old shingles vaccine, called Zostavax, however the new Shingrix vaccine is much more effective and it is recommended that you get it even if you had the old vaccine previously.
Where can I learn more?
The CDC is an excellent source for up-to-date recommended vaccines for diabetics. It is available at cdc.gov. Your local pharmacist or your primary care physician are also great sources for information about these vaccines. Vaccines are a safe and quick way to help protect you and those you love against these diseases. Make an appointment to see your doctor or stop by your local pharmacy without an appointment to discuss which vaccines are right for you!