COVID-19 vaccination and cancer: What you need to know

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If I have cancer now or had it in the past, should I get a COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention recommends that everyone age 5 and older get a primary COVID-19 vaccine series.

That includes most people with underlying medical conditions, including cancer.

A primary vaccine series can be

two doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine

two doses of Moderna vaccine

one dose of Johnson & Johnsons Janssen vaccine

In most situations, the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines are preferred. You may get Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine in some situations.

People age 12 and older who are moderately or severely immunocompromised should get an additional vaccine dose as part of their primary vaccine series.

If you recently received cancer treatment that suppresses the immune system—such as chemotherapy, a stem cell or bone marrow transplant, or cell therapy—your doctor may suggest that you wait until your immune system has recovered before you get vaccinated.

Or your doctor may suggest that you wait a few weeks after vaccination to get immunosuppressive treatment.

To help protect people with cancer from COVID-19, it is important that their family members, loved ones, and caregivers get vaccinated.

All of the COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective at preventing severe disease and death from all variants that have emerged so far.

In areas where the virus is spreading quickly, wearing a mask in public indoor spaces and social distancing will also help protect vulnerable people and prevent the spread of the virus.

Who should get an additional dose of the COVID-19 vaccine?

People with certain cancers and those who are receiving treatment that suppresses the immune system may have a weaker response to COVID-19 vaccines than people whose immune systems are not compromised.

CDC recommends that people as young as age 5 whose immune systems are moderately to severely compromised get an additional vaccine dose as part of their primary vaccine series to improve their immune response to the vaccine and to ensure adequate protection against COVID-19.

CDC also recommends that people who received stem cell transplants or CAR T-cell therapy after getting a COVID-19 vaccination should be revaccinated with a primary vaccine series.

Is a COVID-19 booster shot different from an additional dose? Who should get a booster shot?

An additional vaccine dose is given to some immunocompromised people who may not mount a good immune response after primary vaccination.

It is different from a booster shot, which is given when protection from primary vaccination is likely to have waned over time.

CDC recommends a COVID-19 booster shot for everyone age 12 and older. If you are moderately or severely immunocompromised, CDC recommends you get a booster shot after your additional vaccine dose.

Certain immunocompromised people and all adults over age 50 are eligible for a second booster shot.

In most situations, the booster should be an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna).

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If you care about COVID, please read studies that COVID-19 death risk ‘four times higher’ for slow walkers, and these people need additional COVID-19 vaccine doses.

For more information about cancer, please see recent studies about how to reduce pancreatic cancer spread by nearly 90%, and results showing what you need to know about cancer and booster shot.