Archive | 12:16 pm

Cancer patients and the COVID-19 vaccines

17 Jan
Everybody should get vaccinated – even cancer patients and chorus girls!

In my latest for Fred Hutch, the cancer/virus/disease research center where I work, I dig into some of the questions I’ve seen swirling around on Twitter and Facebook as to whether cancer patients should get one of the two new “double-whammy” vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna.

Short answer: yes and as soon as possible (with a couple of caveats).

Definitely talk to your oncologist about your immune system if you’re currently getting any kind of immunocompromising treatment, such as chemotherapy. (Anti-hormones, which many of us are on for years, don’t qualify as immunocompromising.) You’ll also probably want to get the shots timed so your immune system is at its strongest. People with active cancer (I take this to mean stage 4, newly Dx’d folx) and those in active treatment should be prioritized, per Hutch public health researcher / oncologist Dr. Gary Lyman, since the complications from COVID-19 can be a lot worse for these peeps.

And YES, you still have to mask up after getting vaccinated: we don’t yet know if vaccinated people can infect others or not. BUT we sure know a lot more than we did last year when this creepy zoonotic virus first raised its spiky crowned head. And just so you’re aware, 3 out of every 4 new or emerging infectious diseases in people come from animals.

If you really want to dig in to the COVID-19 vaccine and specifics about mRNA, transplant patients, etc., you can hear a lot more from infectious disease (ID) and cancer experts like Gary and Dr. Steve Pergam on this ASCO/IDSA webinar.

Let me know if you have questions and I’ll try to follow up with more resources. In the meantime, #MaskUp #KeepYourDistance and #JustKeepSwimming

Cancer patients and the COVID-19 vaccines

The initial batch of COVID-19 vaccines are now available in the U.S. following incredibly fast — “warp speed” — development and testing.

Not so incredibly, there’s a lot of confusion among cancer patients — as well as their oncologists and caregivers — as to whether the vaccine is a good idea or a bad idea for somebody dealing with cancer.

The two Food and Drug Administration-approved vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, each requiring two shots a few weeks apart, were more than 94% effective at keeping this new coronavirus in check in testing on thousands of volunteers in clinical trials. But only a handful of the clinical-trial participants were cancer patients.

Other COVID-19 vaccines are in development and will be available in the months ahead. Additional trials involving subpopulations (think children, pregnant women, people with health issues) are also in the works.  

But what do we do now that states are ramping up the vaccination efforts to eligible groups?

Patients with cancer are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 because of the immunocompromising nature of cancer treatments. On top of that, progressing cancer itself depletes the immune system and leaves patients susceptible to infection.

Does that mean cancer patients should be first in line for their shot — or last? If they’re in treatment, could a vaccine make them sicker? What about those with metastatic disease who are always in treatment — can they get it? And are survivors the same as the general public? 

Full story here: https://www.fredhutch.org/en/news/center-news/2021/01/cancer-patients-covid19-vaccine-coronavirus.html