COVID-19 Vaccination Declared Safe and Effective for Cancer Patients

Patients with cancer now have official confirmation that vaccinating against COVID-19 will protect them from contracting the virus.

At their annual conference, the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) presented research confirming people with cancer and undergoing anticancer treatments will have the typical autoimmune response to COVID-19 vaccination.

Individuals with cancer and undergoing anticancer treatments were originally excluded from vaccine trials, so this patient population did not have conclusive evidence that vaccination would offer COVID-19 protection until ESMO’s announcement.

ESMO cited numerous studies on the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines for patients with cancer; studies were conducted using the Moderna, Pfizer–BioNTech, and AstraZeneca vaccines.

These studies refuted concerns that anticancer treatments or medications, such as chemotherapy, would leave a cancer patient’s immune system too weak to reap the full benefits of COVID-19 vaccination. Regardless of the type of anticancer treatment these patients were undergoing, a spokesman for ESMO reported, the vaccines were effective.

Additionally, study participants who currently or previously had cancer experienced no more vaccine side effects than the control group with no history of cancer.

Earlier this year, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) confirmed that receiving a COVID-19 vaccine will not lessen the effect of any anticancer therapies a patient is undergoing, and both the NCI and ESMO strongly encouraged all eligible cancer patients and caregivers to get the vaccine.

It is especially vital for patients with cancer to receive all the recommended doses of their respective vaccine (i.e., two shots for the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines); cancer patients were less likely to develop sufficient antibodies after just one dose than the control group without cancer. Upon receiving both doses of the vaccine, patients with cancer had a comparable antibody response to those without cancer.

As the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prepares to move forward with booster shots for certain patient populations, the research suggests that an additional shot would be even more beneficial for cancer patients. Another recent study found people aged 60 years and older responded well to a third shot of the vaccine, and a spokesman for ESMO contended that this should be the norm for all immunocompromised persons, such as cancer patients.

The CDC corroborates this advice, recommending an additional vaccine dose for all “moderately to severely” immunocompromised people. Patients with blood cancers, such as leukemia, are more likely to have an impaired antibody response, and should strongly consider receiving an additional dose.

The additional antibodies found in subjects who received a third dose of the vaccine or who had COVID-19 and recovered are believed to provide extra protection against the Delta and any subsequent variants.

Patients with cancer are among those most at risk of developing severe symptoms upon contracting COVID-19, so this vulnerable population can now rest assured that they will reap the full benefits of a COVID-19 vaccine.