With so much information (and misinformation) online, your Wilmot Cancer Institute team is here to provide facts and guidance. Here are a few common questions and answers cancer patients have when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine.
Are the coronavirus vaccines safe for cancer patients?
In a word, yes. Data from clinical trials that included tens of thousands of people show the vaccines are safe. And while the trials did not specifically include cancer patients, we have no reason to suspect it is unsafe for cancer patients. The vaccine does not contain live virus, and people with cancer have safely received vaccines to prevent other illnesses. In general, we recommend any cancer patients who are eligible to get it as soon as they can.
That being said, you may want to keep two considerations in mind: Allergic reactions and timing. If you have ever had a severe allergic reaction to a cancer treatment or to ingredients that may be in the vaccine, you should consult your physician first. Together, you and your doctor can discuss your medical history, including past reactions, and determine the best path forward based on your own personal benefits and risks.
As far as timing, it is recommended cancer patients get the vaccine as soon as they are offered it. However, patients on certain treatments should keep in mind that if their immune system is weakened from treatment, they may not gain maximum protection. It is still worthwhile to get vaccinated because experts believe the vaccine will offer some protection against COVID-19. However, for these patients, continued safety practices like masking and social distancing remain important. Also, there may be options to boost immunity down the road, when vaccine is more available. If you have questions, please talk with your oncology team.
When and where will the vaccines be available for Wilmot patients?
Eligibility is shifting rapidly and URMC follows guidance recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and New York State. You can see who is currently eligible for the vaccine here on New York State’s website: https://covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov If your eligibility falls within those criteria, you can go to flvaccinehub.com to try to find a vaccine clinic. You can read more about the COVID-19 vaccination process at Vaccine.URMC.edu.
Should family members of cancer patients and survivors get the coronavirus vaccine?
In a word, yes! We believe everyone over age 16 should get the vaccine when they are offered it. This is a step that not only protects them, it protects you as a cancer patient from being exposed to someone who is ill with the virus. This is why healthcare workers, including oncologists, nurses and others on the patient care team, were among the first to get vaccinated.
It’s important to note, even once you get vaccinated, physicians still recommend following safety practices such as masking while in public places, washing hands regularly and social distancing. As more people get vaccinated, we hope we may be able to drop some practices. But for now, we should continue to play it safe until enough people in the community are vaccinated that herd immunity can be achieved.
If you have questions about the general population and the vaccine, visit Vaccine.URMC.edu, which provides helpful tools and information regarding the vaccine and its distribution.
Where can I find out the latest about the COVID-19 vaccine?
We recommend checking your eligibility first through the New York State vaccination website: https://covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov. If you are eligible, you may be able to make a vaccination appointment through that site. Additionally, URMC has resources about vaccination at Vaccine.URMC.edu. Visit the CDC website for the most up-to-date information about coronavirus.