Cancer patients are at increased risk of severe COVID-19 and should get vaccinated once the vaccine is available to them, unless their physician advises otherwise or there are contraindications to the vaccine, such as a severe allergic reaction to a vaccine or medication in the past requiring you to seek immediate medical care. Cancer patients should discuss COVID-19 vaccination with their provider to to understand the effectiveness of vaccines for those being treated for cancer and to discuss any contraindications.
Recent COVID-19 vaccine trials did not include a large number of cancer patients. However, these vaccines do not contain live virus and non-live vaccines are generally considered safe – and are commonly recommended – for cancer patients.
Vaccine effectiveness may be reduced in cancer patients with suppressed immune systems as the ability to mount a response to the vaccine may be limited. Still, the benefit of vaccination is considered greater than the risk of not getting the vaccine, barring any contraindications.
After receiving the vaccine, it is advisable for cancer patients, like everyone, to continue masking, cleaning hands and social distancing.
- Vermont plans to vaccinate cancer patients after those in Phase 4 (people ages 65 and above) have been vaccinated.
We do not recommend that patients delay cancer treatments to get vaccinated. However, a physician and patient may decide to hold off on treatment on a case-by-case basis depending on the urgency of treatment, the seriousness of illness, and the risk and benefit of delay.
Patients getting mammograms or CT scans may show enlarged lymph nodes after vaccination, a common physical response to the vaccine. These results may lead to further testing to rule out cancer as the cause. For this reason, if there is no urgent reason for immediate imaging, it is best to get these screening tests either prior to your COVID-19 vaccination or 4 to 6 weeks after vaccination.