Cancer and COVID-19 Vaccines

Patients with cancer are at higher risk of complications from COVID-19. As a result, we encourage all of our patients to receive the COVID-19 vaccination as they become eligible in accordance with the Georgia Department of Public Health guidelines.

Below we address several questions on the COVID-19 vaccines as they may affect patients with cancer.

Should cancer patients get a COVID-19 vaccination?

Yes. Along with our colleagues at other top NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers across the nation, we recommend that cancer patients be vaccinated for COVID-19.

People with cancer and those undergoing cancer treatments may be at increased risk for the virus, and data demonstrates worse COVID outcomes for patients with cancer and for patients with a history of cancer. COVID's threat to the health and lives of cancer patients underscores the need for vaccination. Cancer patients and survivors should discuss the vaccine and the timing of inoculation with their oncologists, but in general if patients can get the vaccine, they should. Our researchers and physicians will continue to review and evaluate the effectiveness of the vaccines, leading clinical trials on the outcomes for cancer patients who receive the vaccines and will share those updates with our patients and on our website.

We encourage all of our patients to receive the COVID-19 vaccination as they become eligible in accordance with the Georgia Department of Public Health guidelines.

Additionally, Winship was one of only five national cancer centers awarded a prestigious COVID-19 and Cancer Grant to study immune response for cancer patients after receiving any COVID-19 vaccine. If you are interested in helping us to understand how good and how long your response will last, please contact your Winship care team for more information.

When can cancer patients and survivors receive the vaccine?

According to the Georgia Department of Health and based on CDC guidelines, our state is currently in Phase 1A+ which gives vaccines to healthcare workers, residents and staff of long-term care facilities, adults 65+ years and their caregivers, law enforcement, fire and first responders. However, Winship physicians and cancer researchers join our colleagues from the American Cancer Society, the American Society for Clinical Oncology, and the American Association for Cancer Research in calling for the CDC to give cancer patients an elevated priority for the vaccine. For the most current information of vaccine distribution, visit Emory Healthcare's COVID-19 website..

Will the vaccine affect my cancer treatment?

Currently, there is no data that would lead Winship cancer researchers and physicians to conclude that the COVID-19 vaccines affect cancer treatments. Moreover, we believe there is greater risks for worse COVID outcomes among cancer patients and for worse cancer outcomes for patients either exposed to the virus and thus quarantined and unable to receive their cancer treatments or for cancer patients who develop COVID and complications that necessitate the delay of cancer treatments.

Are COVID vaccines safe for cancer patients?

At this time, there is no data demonstrating cancer patients are at any increased risk from the COVID-19 vaccines. While the vaccines might not work as well in cancer patients who have weakened or impaired immune systems, those patients would still benefit from the vaccine's protection, even if that protection is less for them than for patients with fully functioning immune systems.

Will the Coronavirus vaccine alter a cancer patient’s genetic code and interfere with gene-based therapies?

No. There is no evidence that the current two vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna – both of which use mRNA technology – impact or alter a patient's genetic code.

 

For the latest information on Emory Healthcare's distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines or for general information about the vaccines, please visit Emory Healthcare's COVID-19 vaccines website.
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