COVID-19 “Booster” Vaccines for People with Cancer

Author: Carolyn Vachani, MSN, RN
Last Reviewed:

You may have heard that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has recommended a third dose of the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) for people with compromised immune systems. You may hear this called a “booster” shot or third dose. The US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has also authorized this third dose for immunocompromised people. This does not apply to people who got a Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

What does this mean for people with cancer?

Not all cancer treatments or people with cancer have weakened immune systems. Talk to your care team to see if you are eligible for this additional dose.

In general, you are eligible:

  • If you are being treated for a blood cancer (leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma) currently or within the last 6 months.
  • If you have had a stem cell or bone marrow transplant in the last two years.
  • If you are taking medicines to suppress your immune system after a transplant (organ or stem cell/bone marrow).
  • If you got CAR-T therapy in the last 2 years.
  • If you are currently getting chemotherapy or have gotten chemotherapy in the last six months.
  • In some cases, immunotherapy can weaken your immune system as well. If you are getting immunotherapy or other cancer therapy, talk with your care team about your eligibility.

Other health conditions can also affect your immune system. If you have other health conditions, talk with your care team about how these affect your eligibility. At this time, caregivers for people with cancer should not get a third shot.

Which vaccines are being given?

The third dose of vaccine is only for people who got the mRNA vaccines. These are the vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna. At this time, there is no need for an additional shot if you got the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine.

When should I get the third shot?

The third dose should be given at least 28 days after the second dose. Your third dose should be the same vaccine as your first 2 doses – either Pfizer or Moderna. If you had COVID-19, talk to your provider before getting a third dose of the vaccine.

Where can I get the third shot?

You can receive the third dose at any site giving the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines. Your cancer center may offer the shot. Many pharmacies are offering these vaccines. Wherever you get your third dose, be sure to let your care teams know so they can update your medical record.

References

FDA Press Release - Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA Authorizes Additional Vaccine Dose for Certain Immunocompromised Individuals - https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/coronavirus-covid-19-update-fda-authorizes-additional-vaccine-dose-certain-immunocompromised

CDC Recommendation - https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/recommendations/immuno.html

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