COVID-19 Vaccine Information for People with Cancer
Based on guidance from state and federal officials, COVID-19 vaccine is being given using a phased approach. The first phase gives the vaccine to health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities. The next phases are based on people’s age, their medical conditions and/or their job. Details about Ohio’s vaccine program are on the Ohio Department of Health’s website.
We think that people with cancer will be among the early groups to get the vaccine, but we don’t know when that will be. At this time, vaccine supplies are limited.
We are waiting on updates from the state of Ohio about when we will get vaccine doses for patients. Your UH Seidman Cancer Center care team can give you more details when we have them, and you can check the University Hospitals website for updates.
- When Can I Get a COVID-19 Vaccine?
Based on ODH’s guidelines, University Hospitals started giving the vaccine to people aged 80 or older on Jan. 19, 2021.
The state of Ohio is working on a final plan for how and when the vaccine will be given out. We are working closely with the state and our health care partners to help ensure that our staff and eligible patients are part of the early stages of vaccine distribution.
- What Can I Do While I Wait For the Vaccine?
- Which Vaccine Will I Have?
Our COVID-19 vaccines from the state and we do not have a choice about which one we receive. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been authorized for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The vaccines’ safety and how well they work are about the same. Both vaccines require two doses. Right now, these are the only authorized COVID-19 vaccines. Both are being given to people around the country.
- Will the Vaccine Be Safe?
The U.S. vaccine safety system ensures that all vaccines are as safe as possible. This process includes clinic trials and reviews by independent scientific advisory groups.
The U.S. FDA oversight process is the gold standard for drug and vaccine safety. The FDA has granted EUA for two COVID-19 vaccines, which have been shown to be safe and effective as determined by data from the manufacturers and findings from large clinical trials. These data show that the known and potential benefits of this vaccine outweigh the known and potential harms of becoming infected with the coronavirus, which leads to the COVID-19 illness.
- What Do You Know About Vaccine Side Effects?
The data from tens of thousands of people who received the vaccine in clinical trials showed that they are safe. The side effects from the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are similar and don’t last long — about one to three days. Common side effects reported by people were pain at the injection site, fatigue (tiredness), headache and muscle pain. Side effects were more common after the second dose. Although rare, some people have had severe allergic reactions to the vaccine.
After a vaccine is authorized or approved for use, many vaccine safety monitoring systems watch for adverse events (possible side effects). This continued monitoring can pick up on adverse events that may not have been seen in clinical trials. If an unexpected adverse event is seen, experts quickly study it further to assess if it is a true safety concern. Experts then decide whether changes are needed in U.S. vaccine recommendations. This monitoring is critical to help ensure that the benefits continue to outweigh the risks for people who get vaccines.
- Should People With Cancer Get a COVID-19 Vaccine?
We suggest that people with cancer get a COVID-19 vaccine as long as they have not had a severe allergic reaction to any of the ingredients in the vaccine.
It is important to make an informed decision about getting a COVID-19 vaccine. You can learn more on the CDC’s website.
At this point:
- There is no reason to think that the vaccine is any less safe for patients with cancer, although there is limited safety data from the recent vaccine clinical trials.
- There is no data to suggest that the vaccine should affect your cancer treatment.
- Some cancer treatments may affect how well the vaccine works.
- Your immune system may not respond as well to the vaccine.
- Your doctor may suggest you get the vaccine in between cancer treatments to help it work best and reduce risks.
- If you are getting treatment for cancer, talk with your cancer doctor (oncologist) about the timing of when you get the vaccine.
- Can I Get My Vaccine From the UH Seidman Cancer Center?
We believe that we will give the vaccine to patients with cancer when the state allows us to. We are waiting to hear from the state about that timeline for cancer patients.
- If I Don't Get a Vaccine, Am I More Likely to Get COVID-19?
Yes. If you do not get the COVID-19 vaccine, your chance of getting COVID-19 is higher than someone who gets the vaccine. You may also be more likely to get sicker from COVID-19 based on the type of cancer you have and/or your cancer treatment. We plan to maintain the same safety measures that we put in place when the pandemic started, but we strongly encourage everyone to get their vaccine as soon as they are allowed to.
- What Other Concerns Are There for People with Cancer Who Get the Vaccine?
For people with a weakened immune system, such as those with cancer, we are unsure how well their immune system will respond to the vaccine. Plus, experts still need to learn more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide in the real world. As a result, anyone who gets the vaccine should still follow current guidance from the CDC to protect themselves from COVID-19. This means that everyone should still cover their mouth and nose with a mask when around others, stay at least 6 feet away from others, avoid crowds and wash their hands often.