Cancer Patients and COVID-19 Vaccines

Author: OncoLink Team
Last Reviewed:

You may have questions about the COVID-19 vaccines. Should cancer patients get the vaccine? Should my caregiver receive the vaccine? When will the vaccine be available to me? What happens after I receive the vaccine? This article addresses common questions.

Should cancer patients get the COVID-19 vaccine? 

The general consensus is that yes, cancer patients should receive the vaccine. The vaccine has been shown to be safe in studies. Cancer patients, particularly those getting treatments that affect their immune system, can have a higher risk of becoming sick from COVID-19. The risks of having COVID-19 far outweigh the risks of vaccination.  

It is not certain if the vaccine is as effective in people with already weakened immune systems, such as people getting cancer treatment. However, current recommendations are for people with a compromised immune system to have the vaccine after talking with their provider about their case, treatments, risks, and benefits.

I am getting cancer treatment, is it ok for me to get the vaccine?

Yes, though your treatment may dictate when it is best to get the vaccine so that your immune system can use it best. There are ways to do this by timing the vaccine between cycles of therapy. If you are undergoing a stem cell or bone marrow transplant, be sure to talk with your providers about the timing of vaccines.

It is best to discuss the specifics with your cancer care provider because everyone’s case is different. 

Should cancer survivors get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes, cancer survivors should get the vaccine when it is available to them. Experts feel that cancer survivors will develop protection from COVID-19 with the vaccine.

Should caregivers get the COVID-19 vaccine? 

Yes, cancer caregivers should receive the vaccine when it is available to them. Some types of vaccines actually contain “live” virus, which can be a risk to cancer patients. This is not the case for any of the COVID vaccines. 

Are there individuals who should not get the COVID-19 vaccine?

If you have a history of allergic reactions to the vaccine ingredients, you should not get the vaccine. These contraindications can be found in the CDC interim considerations.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine currently available?  

Several vaccines are currently available, and more are in development. The FDA’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) made recommendations on who should be offered the vaccine first. However, each state and county has developed its own plan for deciding who will be vaccinated and in what order. This is a rapidly changing process. Contact your local health department for more information on your state’s plan.  

I got vaccinated! Now what?

The vaccine is shown to reach its full effectiveness about a week or two after the second dose is received. The vaccine can prevent you from getting sick with COVID but may not prevent you from carrying it and passing it on to others. It is important to continue to practice precautions such as wearing a mask, maintaining 6 feet of distance from anyone that you don’t live with, practicing good hand hygiene, and avoiding large crowds.

References

CDC Coronavirus Information: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html

American Society of Clinical Oncology Coronavirus Information: https://www.asco.org/asco-coronavirus-information

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