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COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Q&A

Texas Oncology agrees with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation that certain immunocompromised people, including all cancer patients undergoing active treatment, get a vaccine and booster shot.

Patients are advised to check with their local pharmacies or local vaccine distribution centers to schedule a vaccine and/or booster shot.

The CDC specifically lists cancer patients among those who should get a COVID-19 booster shot:

According to the CDC, people with cancer are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 because they are more at risk of serious, prolonged illness. The CDC cites studies that indicate:

  • Some immunocompromised people do not always build the same level of immunity after vaccination the way non-immunocompromised people do.
  • Fully vaccinated immunocompromised people have accounted for a large proportion of hospitalized “breakthrough cases,” suggesting that immunocompromised people are more likely to transmit the virus to household contacts.
  • Treatments for cancer can hinder the body’s immune system from fighting COVID-19 as effectively as non-immunocompromised people.
  • The CDC also says that having a history of cancer may increase risk.

Questions and Answers

I have cancer, and I am vaccinated against COVID-19. What should I do about getting a vaccine booster?

We strongly encourage cancer patients to get a booster. Check with your local pharmacy or local vaccine distribution center to schedule a vaccine booster shot if you currently are undergoing cancer treatment.

Does this mean every cancer patient should get a vaccine booster shot?

The FDA recommends that everyone who has been receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancer of the blood get a booster shot.

How do I know if I am immunocompromised, and therefore in need of a vaccine booster?

According to the CDC, cancer patients undergoing active treatment are considered immunocompromised, and therefore should get a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose. If you have questions, you should plan to discuss this with your doctor at your next regularly scheduled clinic visit. As the CDC’s advisory committee on immunization practices continues to meet on this issue, guidance may change over time.

I’m not in treatment currently, but I would like to get a third vaccine shot to be safe. What should I do?

We strongly recommend all patients, caregivers, and those who have completed treatment receive the COVID-19 vaccine and booster shot.

I am in treatment, but I am receiving radiation therapy only, not chemotherapy. Am I immunocompromised and therefore in need of a third vaccine shot?

Patients who are receiving radiation therapy only, and have had not chemotherapy or other therapies in combination with radiation therapy, typically are not considered immunocompromised. However, we strongly recommend cancer patients receive the COVID-19 vaccine and booster shot.

Do the COVID-19 vaccines work the same for cancer patients as for others?

More research is needed to address this question. There is data that indicates the vaccines may be less effective in some immunocompromised people, including patients receiving chemotherapy for cancer, patients with blood cancers such as chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), people receiving stem cells or organ transplants, and patients using certain medications, including some cancer medications that may reduce the immune response to vaccination.

To be clear, we strongly recommend that our patients and their close contacts get vaccinated against COVID-19, including booster shots.

Please note that all cancer patients also should continue to take steps to reduce risk of exposure to COVID-19, including wearing a face mask around anyone outside your home, practicing social distancing, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces.