Should Cancer Patients Take COVID-19 Vaccine? Check Dos and Donts

Administering vaccine by the cancer survivor is as much of a requirement as for any normal person to be safe from the infection.

Jigyasa Nagpal
Written by: Jigyasa NagpalPublished at: May 16, 2021
Should Cancer Patients Take COVID-19 Vaccine? Check Dos and Donts

So much has been said about the vaccine for being a cure or a risk causing the lingering question getting vaccine. We all are aware of impact SARS-CoV-2 virus has been continuing, and despite the cure being made, we are much in doubts about its safety and immediate action. For cancer patients, who are already prone to many infections, are more uncertain to get vaccinated or not. Vaccines have been developed to provide permanent immunity to a person, for protecting against an infection. And to solve the purpose of making one resistant to this virus has to be accomplished by providing the vaccine to a normal person as well as to a cancer fighting patient. However, one should have proper knowledge of the way the vaccine works. Let us first see the mechanism of the vaccines available in India.

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Also Read: Cancer Patients Need To Take Extra Care During COVID-19. Here Are Some Doctor-Verified Tips

Even though, there have been general statements released by the government to take care of before getting vaccinated, for a cancer patient, one has to be more vigilant. Dr Anil Heroor, Head-Surgical Oncology, Fortis Hospital, Mulund & Fortis Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi guides us through the considerations one should think for the corona virus vaccine, especially for cancer fighters.

Understanding How Covid vaccines work

The vaccination process in India began in January 2021. Currently, the available vaccines are three produced by different organizations. To make ourselves aware of the effect vaccine will have on us, it is important to know how it works, that is to understand its mechanism.

  • Covaxin: An inactivated vaccine, that is, it contains the dead virus. This has been developed using the Whole-Virion Inactivated Vero Cell-derived platform technology. It works by directing the immune system to prepare with a reaction that works against the infection causing virus. All you need to know about Covaxin.
  • Covishield: This vaccine works on the mechanism of stopping the replication of the present virus. Also called as ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 (Adenovirus) or AZD1222, the vaccine has a weakened form of a adenovirus that is generally found in chimpanzees. This adenovirus has been used as the viral vector for carrying the genetic material of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein; this protein then binds to the viral cells  and prevents its replication.
  • Sputnik Vaccine: The sputnik vaccine, developed by Gamaleya National Research Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology & the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) uses two different vectors in its two doses of vaccination. It uses the human adenovirus vector technology.

What should a Cancer patient consider before Vaccination?

Your doctor knows the most about your case. The dos and don’t’s, the doubts, the complications and the risks can be most well-explained by him. So, according to the stage are you in your treatment, the doctor will be the person to clarify better before getting vaccinated. Even the timelines should be discussed with the expert you are referring. Different cases of cancer patients that can be considered before administering vaccine:

  • Leukemia patients- In acute leukemia cases, delaying the vaccination would be suitable due to the intensive chemotherapy session. For the induction therapy stage, a doctor must be spoken to.
  • In case of after Cancer Surgery- Again consultation is required. Important consideration here would be the time of taking the vaccine- how many days/ weeks after the body is ready to handle changes associated with the vaccine or there is no effect.
  • In case of Chemotherapy or Immune-suppressing treatment- The advisable gap is at least 5 to 7 days from the last session of chemotherapy and radiation. When the white blood cells that are associated with immunity are low, then vaccine should not be administered. Hence, a Complete Blood Count (CBC) test should be done before the vaccination.
  • In case of Breast Cancer surgery- Keeping in mind the fact that vaccine is given on the left shoulder, if the breast removal has been done on the left, then vaccine should be taken on the right side. And if both the breasts have been removed then, it is advised that the vaccine should be taken on the thigh or the hips.
  • In case of Stem Cell Therapy- This is a crucial case, and probably, the vaccination could be delayed when the case has severe Graft versus Host Disease or patients with low B-cell counts. Also, consult the doctor, if the patient is undergoing Autologous Stem Cell Transplant, Allogeneic Stem Cell Transplant or CART Cell Therapy from the last three months or so.

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Also Read: Covishield Vaccine FAQ: All That You Need To Know About This Vaccine

Getting vaccinated is currently the biggest confusion faced by patients who are dealing with a pre-existing disease such as cancer. It is thus important to be aware of all the dos and donts regarding the covid vaccination process so that there is no interruption in their treatments or for their future therapies. Along with the current treatments and vaccination, one should continue follow the social distancing norms and continue wearing mask. 

With inputs from Dr Anil Heroor, Head-Surgical Oncology, Fortis Hospital, Mulund & Fortis Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi

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