Vaccines and Diabetes 

Cold and flu season is upon us.  Unfortunately, sometimes a cold or flu can progress to pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection in the lungs that can make it difficult to breathe. Anyone can develop pneumonia, but people with diabetes are at greater risk from pneumonia. Higher blood glucose levels make it harder for white blood cells to fight infections. The immune system is our body’s defense to fight illness. Infants and young children’s immune system is not totally developed and our immune system slows down as we age.  

Photo of a chest X-ray

The risk of developing diabetes and other chronic illnesses increases with age. Seniors with diabetes or other chronic illnesses are at greater risk for pneumonia. Smokers, people with heart disease, chronic lung disease, and anyone receiving treatment for cancer or has had an organ transplant are also at a greater risk for pneumonia. 

The pneumonia bacteria can be spread through person-to-person contact such as hugging, kissing, or being coughed on. Symptoms of pneumonia include a cough producing yellow, gray or blood-streaked mucus, fever, chest pain, and chills. Anyone living in close quarters like a school dormitory or nursing home increases the risk of spreading the pneumonia bacteria.  

Keeping your blood glucose well managed is another important step in fighting infections.   

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that deaths related to pneumonia are dropping. This is because there are two good pneumonia vaccines available in the United States. 

  • Prevnar 13® vaccine protects against 13 pneumococcal bacteria 
  • Pneumovax 23®  vaccine protects against 23 pneumococcal bacteria 

Other vaccines that are recommended for individuals with diabetes: 

  • Annual flu vaccine 
  • Hepatitis B vaccine 
  • Tdap vaccine (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis) 
  • Zoster vaccine (shingles). 

Only your healthcare provider can determine which vaccines may be appropriate for you and when they should be given.