Should Cancer Patients and survivors get the CoVID-19 Vaccine?

Many experts, specialists and doctors now recommend that most people with cancer, or a history of cancer, do get the COVID-19 vaccine once it is available to them, and once their medical care team gives them the go-ahead.

The main issues with giving cancer patients the vaccine is not exactly the vaccine’s safety for those with cancer, but how effective it will be considering their compromised immune systems and heavy medications. Certain treatments like radiation, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or those who have had a stem cell or bone marrow transplant can directly affect their immune systems, which has shown to make the vaccine much less effective. Cancers like leukemia or lymphoma can also cause a weakened immune system which can also make the vaccine less effective.

Initial research and studies done on the COVID-19 vaccinations did not include people getting treatment with medications that suppress their immune system like chemo, or those with weakened immune systems for other reasons. Due to the lack of research in this area, the effectiveness of the vaccine in this group of patients is not yet known.

While there is no specific information on effectiveness, many experts still recommend that most cancer patients get the vaccine because those with cancer or major issues are at risk for more severe sickness from this disease. So, even with the vaccine being less effective, some protection is still needed.

That stated, it is best for each patient to discuss this with their oncologist and medical care team. For those patients who have had severe reactions to vaccinations in the past, it still may be advised to avoid getting the vaccine until more studies are done, and their immune system has a chance to recover and become stronger.

The CDC guidelines for COVID-19, even for those who are vaccinated, are constantly changing, and being updated as more is learned about the virus and how it spreads and reacts to vaccinations. It is best for those patients with cancer or an immunocompromised system to continue to wear masks and avoid large crowds and gatherings. Breakthrough cases are happening more frequently, even with those patients who are fully vaccinated. It is also good to remember that the CDC guidelines are often not designed for the unhealthy, or immunocompromised.

If you have questions about whether or not you should get the COVID-19 vaccination, do not hesitate to reach out to your doctor or medical care team to get information based on your situation.

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Note: This article is not medical advice. Consult your medical doctor for direct advice to your case.

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