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 are now 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 patients with cancer 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 in active treatment should discuss the vaccine and the timing of inoculation with their oncologists. All other cancer patients can schedule a vaccine appointment wherever and whenever it is available to them, and there is no need to contact Winship for further guidance. In general, if patients can get the vaccine, they should. Any of the currently approved and available vaccines are appropriate for patients with cancer and their caregivers

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

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.

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. Clinical trials in this study help us to understand how good and how long the response will last for patients with various types of cancer including lymphoma, lung cancer and multiple myeloma.

We are currently enrolling participants for the following clinical trial:

If you are planning to or have received any of the current available vaccines against COVID-19 and are interested in participating in one of these studies, please contact our Clinical Trials Office at (404) 778-1868 and a clinical trials coordinator will assist you.

When can cancer patients and survivors receive the vaccine?

According to the Georgia Department of Health and as of March 25th, all individuals 16 years old and older* are eligible for vaccination. *For individuals aged 16 and 17, the Pfizer vaccine is the only one currently approved for these ages. Information on the state's eligibility criteria and available vaccination locations in Georgia are available online.

For the most current information on Emory Healthcare's vaccine distribution, visit Emory Healthcare's COVID-19 website.

Is one COVID-19 vaccine more effective than the other?

Current data indicates that the vaccines are very similar in how effective and safe they are. They all prevent hospitalization and death from COVID infection, which is critically important. Because they weren’t studied head-to-head with each other or in trials done at the time/location, it is harder to compare their efficacy at preventing mild to moderate COVID infection, although they all performed well.

Winship medical oncologist Dr. Bradley Carthon discusses differences between the various COVID-19 vaccines available.

Why should patients with cancer and their caregivers remain vigilant even after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine?

Although recent CDC guidelines allow for fully vaccinated individuals to gather with family and friends under certain conditions, we advise patients with cancer and their caregivers to remain vigilant and not let their guard down. While the available COVID-19 vaccines provide a level of protection against a severe case of COVID-19 and possible hospitalization or death, there is still a possibility of getting the infection even if you've been fully vaccinated. Also, the vaccines may not be as protective or as long-lasting for cancer patients compared to other populations. Since cancer patients are at higher risk for complications related to COVID-19, we urge patients to exercise caution.

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 patients with cancer?

At this time, there is no data demonstrating patients with cancer 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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