As Lamont Holds Line on Vaccinations, Advocates Question Omission of Type 1 Diabetes

“This has been a really terrifying time for people with Type 1 diabetes,” said John Kleinhans, a Type 1 Diabetic and the advocacy chair of the Greater Connecticut Chapter of JDRF, a Type 1 Diabetes research and advocacy group. 

The organization wrote an open letter to Gov. Ned Lamont on Wednesday arguing that Type 1 Diabetes patients should be included in the current phase of the vaccine rollout. 

In a meeting on Tuesday, Connecticut’s Vaccine Advisory Group allocation subcommittee recommended that Phase 1b include adults 65 and older, and residents with at least one health condition placing them at increased risk of severe illness if they contract COVID-19. 

Those conditions are currently limited to the twelve conditions designated by the CDC, which include cancer, heart conditions, Down Syndrome, chronic kidney disease, obesity, pregnancy, smoking, and Type 2 diabetes. 

The CDC describes this list as a “living document” that “could rapidly change as the science evolves,” and states are free to prioritize different conditions.

States including Tennessee, New Jersey, Texas and Ohio have already chosen to prioritize Type 1 diabetes patients in spite of CDC guidance. The CDC designation also differs from the United Kingdom, which places both types of diabetes in the same category. 

Dr. Jody Terranova, a vaccine advocate for the Connecticut Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and a member of the Governor’s COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Group, agreed with the decisions made by other states to prioritize all diabetics in vaccine distribution. 

“I haven’t seen a good explanation for why Type 1 diabetes was left out,” Terranova said. “I know everyone’s got their group that they want prioritized, but for something like this, it really doesn’t make sense to not include them.” 

William Petit, a physician and state representative who also serves on the Vaccine Advisory Group, said the jury is still out on whether Type 1 diabetics face significantly increased risk, but that he still thinks they should be included in Phase 1b. He said that Type 2 diabetics are a more obvious inclusion because of the much higher rates of obesity, which significantly worsens COVID-19 outcomes. 

“We have longstanding data showing subtle abnormalities in the immune responses of people with Type 1 diabetes, and the data we have on Type 1 diabetes and COVID-19 does suggest that it does put someone at a higher risk,” Petit said. “From what I’d seen, I’d say someone with Type 1 diabetes faces less risk than an 85-year-old or someone with congestive heart failure, but a 45-year-old with Type 1 diabetes is going to face a higher risk than a 45-year-old without it.” 

Petit cited a Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology study that mined 61 million medical records from England’s National Health Service and found that the risk of dying from COVID-19 was almost three times higher for people with Type 1 diabetes. 

Still, Gov. Lamont has broadly pushed back on efforts to add more people to Phase 1b. 

“Adding more groups just means other people get pushed to the back of the line,” Lamont said in a press briefing on Monday. “If everybody’s a priority, then no one’s a priority.”

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