Can cancer patients take Covid vaccine?

cancer patients and covid vaccine

Many individuals, including cancer patients, their families, and caregivers, have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, which was caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. However, concerns regarding the COVID-19 vaccinations have grown among persons with cancer (or a history of cancer). Many cancer patients question if getting one of the authorised COVID-19 vaccinations is safe. After all, we know that having a pre-existing medical condition, such as cancer or heart disease, puts you at a higher chance of contracting the virus and getting a catastrophic illness. The simple answer is that immunisation against COVID-19 is advised for most individuals with cancer or a history of cancer, but there are several criteria that people with cancer should examine first. Most individuals with cancer or a history of cancer, according to several professional medical groups, should obtain the COVID-19 vaccination. Because everyone's situation is different, it's essential to speak with a cancer doctor about the risks and advantages of obtaining the COVID-19 vaccination.

Is it safe for cancer patients to get any type of vaccine?

Some vaccinations are safe for people with cancer (or a history of cancer), although this depends on a number of circumstances, including the type of vaccine, the type of cancer a person has (had), if they are still being treated for cancer, and whether their immune system is functioning correctly. As a result, it's a good idea to see the  doctor before obtaining any sort of vaccine.

Should cancer patients and survivors get the vaccine?

The major issue about receiving the vaccination is not whether it is safe for cancer patients, but rather how successful it will be, especially in those with weakened immune systems. Chemotherapy, radiation, stem cell or bone marrow transplants, and immunotherapy are all cancer therapies that might impact the immune system, making the vaccination less effective.

They should get vaccinated since the advantages of vaccinations outweigh the hazards they could face if they are exposed to the virus. Consult your oncologist to determine the best time to get vaccinated according on your current treatment, such as chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy, stem cell transplant, surgery, and so on. However, patients receiving induction therapy for acute leukaemia should wait until their treatment is finished before getting vaccinated.

People who have certain cancers, such as leukaemia or lymphoma, may have weakened immune systems, making the vaccine less effective. People using immune-suppressing medicines, such as chemo, or people with weaker immune systems for other reasons were excluded from the early studies evaluating the COVID-19 vaccines. As a result, it's yet unclear how successful the vaccinations will be in these populations. Although there is no particular evidence on how effective the vaccinations are in people being treated for cancer, it is conceivable that people with weaker immune systems will have a lower response to the vaccines than those with healthy immune systems. The second dosage should be taken 4 to 8 weeks following the first dose in the typical population, according to current recommendations. Patients with cancer, on the other hand, should take the second dose as soon as possible, preferably 4 weeks after the first.

Before getting the vaccination, cancer patients who are undergoing chemotherapy, radiation, or immune-suppressive therapy should have their complete blood count checked. If WBC and platelet counts are low, it is advised not to get the vaccination. Also, the COVID-19 vaccination should not be given to patients who are allergic to PEG (polyethylene glycol). Covid-19 vaccination should not be given to those who have a known allergy to polysorbate-80 (a chemical used as an excipient in several chemotherapy medicines).

Is there a specific COVID-19 vaccine for cancer patients?

There haven't been any studies directly comparing the different vaccinations because they've been examined in different areas and at different periods. As a result, it's unclear if any of the vaccinations is safer or more effective than the others.

Despite this, physicians nevertheless suggest that most cancer patients get the vaccination since individuals with a weak immune system are at risk for severe COVID-19 illness, so obtaining even minimal protection from the vaccine is preferable than not having any protection. Because everyone's situation is different, it's advisable to talk to an oncologist about the risks and advantages of receiving one of the COVID-19 vaccinations.

It's also unclear if any of the vaccinations will be more (or less) effective against the new COVID-19 variations that have emerged in recent months. This is now under research, as is the prospect of future booster shots to help guard against certain variations. Most major medical organisations haven't endorsed one form of COVID vaccination over another for cancer patients (or survivors) or the general public at this time.

Side effects of the vaccine

A sore arm, tiredness, and muscular pains are common adverse effects after immunisation. Fever and chills are other possible side effects, particularly after the second dose. Some persons may develop swollen lymph nodes as a result of vaccination. These most commonly occur on the side of the vaccination, in the underarm or in the neck. Because cancer can cause lymph node growth, it's vital for patients to understand that this is a potential side effect, not an indication that their disease is progressing. 

The swollen lymph nodes may be sensitive to the touch and should go away on their own, although they might linger for weeks. If the swollen lymph nodes do not start to improve three to four weeks following your second dosage, you should contact your healthcare practitioner.

Timing the vaccine and cancer treatments

Some non-urgent cancer therapies may need to be postponed until the vaccination process is complete. Most cancer therapies, on the other hand, should not be postponed due to vaccines. Your healthcare practitioner can help you decide when to be vaccinated in relation to your cancer treatment. Other specific concerns may apply depending on the sort of cancer therapy you've had or are getting. 

Vaccine booster for cancer patients

Early research suggests that persons with weaker immune systems, such as cancer patients, may not be as effectively protected against COVID-19 even after receiving the vaccinations. If these people are exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19, obtaining another dose of vaccination may help them develop a stronger immune response. Experts now recommend a third dosage of the vaccinations for certain persons with reduced immune systems, and for people with moderately to severely impaired immune systems, a third dose of these vaccines is recommended.

This includes persons with the following conditions:

  • Who have been undergoing active cancer therapy for a while (either for tumours or cancers of the blood)

  • Who have had a stem cell transplant in the previous two years or on immunosuppressive medication

  • Who have been receiving active therapy with high-dose corticosteroids or other immune-suppressing drugs

Breast cancer or a history of breast cancer

Swollen lymph nodes under the arm where the COVID-19 vaccination was administered may occur in some patients who get the vaccine. Most doctors recommend that patients with breast cancer or a history of breast cancer have the injection in the arm on the opposite side of their breast cancer since a swollen lymph node beneath the arm can also be an indication of breast cancer spread. Swollen lymph nodes following a vaccination injection might potentially affect the results of your mammogram.

It's crucial to remember that some cancer patients have compromised immune systems, which might make vaccinations less effective. Because vaccinations' effectiveness may be compromised, and there is currently no data on avoiding asymptomatic transmission or ensuring long-term protection, caregivers of cancer patients can be vaccinated as well.


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