Sansum Diabetes Research Institute (SDRI) has begun distributing the COVID-19 vaccine to Santa Barbara’s diabetes community, specifically older Hispanic/Latino adults living with diabetes. The first vaccine doses administered by SDRI were given on January 27, 2021.

“At SDRI, we are following the science by targeting the group with one of the highest risks from COVID-19, namely Latino adults with diabetes,” said Dr. David Kerr, SDRI’s Director of Research and Innovation. “With the COVID-19 pandemic, we continue to see a disproportionate number of Latino adults hospitalized because of COVID-19, and with diabetes, the risk of an extremely serious outcome from the infection is increased dramatically.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, infection with the virus causing COVID-19 has shone a spotlight on the existing health disparities in the United States. From the perspective of people with diabetes, we know that certain underserved populations have a disproportionate burden of diabetes, most notably type 2 diabetes. These hard-hit populations include the local Latino community, in which rates of diabetes are double those of the background population. Latino adults also tend to develop diabetes at a younger age and this is associated with worse overall blood glucose control and a higher risk of serious complications associated with diabetes.

SDRI has been able to identify and engage this vulnerable population thanks to relationships and trust built through ongoing research, education, and care efforts focused specifically on Latino individuals and families. These include the Mil Familias research initiative (www.milfamilias.sansum.org), Spanish-language diabetes education, and bilingual web resources (http://latinodiabetes.sansum.org/) and (https://latinodiabetes.sansum.org/covid-19-latino-diabetes/). SDRI’s Latino diabetes work is facilitated by trained, bilingual Latino Community Scientists (known to participants as Especialistas), who are now key liaisons with the community for vaccination against the COVID-19 virus.

Subsequently, based on vaccine supply from the State of California and guidance from the local and state public health departments, SDRI aims to expand vaccination to other Latinos with diabetes at a younger age, those who are essential workers, and also non-Latinos with diabetes. Starting with those over the age of 65 and with type 1 diabetes will also be eligible for the vaccine once it is available at SDRI.

“We hope to extend the offer of the vaccine to as many Latino adults with diabetes as we can find in the local area,” said Dr. Kerr.

Due to SDRI’s commitment to administering the limited supply of vaccine to those at highest risk, SDRI vaccination registration is currently by invitation and appointment only. Please reach out to our bilingual staff at (805) 699-1519 to check your eligibility and to be placed on a waiting list at SDRI.