Vaccine call for those with obesity and diabetes

Continuity of treatment also essential
  • Deborah Condon

People with obesity and diabetes should be prioritised for early COVID-19 vaccination, experts have claimed.

According to the Irish Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism (IrSPEN), diabetes and obesity are considered major underlying risk factors for developing severe COVID-19 illness.

Both conditions cause inflammation of small blood vessels around the lungs and other organs, "and this is then exaggerated by COVID-19", noted IrSPEN spokesperson and obesity specialist, Prof Carel le Roux.

"Intensive Care Units (ICUs) are currently filling up with many younger patients who have underlying diabetes and obesity and have contracted COVID-19.

"People with more severe obesity and more severe type 1 and type 2 diabetes are at most risk. These patients are now not being ventilated as quickly as in the first wave, because we understand that the reason their oxygen levels become so low has as much to do with their underlying condition, rather than the coronavirus being the sole cause," he explained.

IrSPEN also highlighted the importance of continuity of care for these patients.

"The consensus amongst metabolic doctors who specialise in treating these conditions is that these patients should be prioritised both for vaccination and continuity of care.

"Many patients with diabetes and obesity have had their treatments postponed or deprioritised within hospital care in recent months. The relationship between these conditions and the development of severe illness from COVID-19 means we should continue to treat patients," commented St Vincent's University Hospital consultant surgeon and IrSPEN member, Prof Helen Heneghan.

The importance of continuing treatment was also highlighted by the national diabetes charity, Diabetes Ireland.

"We now know that the worse the control of diabetes, the higher the risk of serious complications from COVID-19. Medical research over the past 10 months shows the importance of people with diabetes and obesity continuing to take their medications and attend appointments, even if these are virtual," commented Diabetes Ireland advocacy research manager, Dr Anna Clarke.

According to Dublin-based GP, Dr Mick Crotty, the pandemic has "alerted us to the vulnerability of patients with diabetes and obesity".

"Our thinking about the virus has changed from it causing a disease of the inside of the lung towards considering it as a disease that reduces blood flow immediately outside the lungs, thus reducing oxygen transport. The virus accelerates underlying complications of diseases, such as diabetes and obesity.

"We should redouble efforts to help these patients through the COVID-19 pandemic, and doing so would benefit hospitalisation and mortality rates," he insisted.


Discussions on this topic are now closed.