For months now, qualifying individuals have been eligible for an extra COVID-19 vaccine dose. The extra dose is recommended for people with compromised immune systems. This includes patients undergoing mesothelioma treatment. Until recently, researchers had not studied the extra dose in thoracic cancer patients. This may have caused doubts about the vaccines’ protections for mesothelioma patients.
But, new research may clear up some of those doubts. In a new study, a COVID-19 vaccine series protected the majority of thoracic cancer patients. If infected with the virus, vaccinated patients experienced mostly mild symptoms. This new data may help reassure mesothelioma patients of the vaccines’ ability to protect them.
This study is not the first to investigate COVID-19 vaccination in cancer patients. However, it does appear to be the first to include pleural mesothelioma patients.
Vaccine +/- Booster Triggered Immune Protection in Most Thoracic Cancer Patients
A team of French researchers at Bichat Hospital performed the study. Researchers offered COVID-19 vaccination to thoracic cancer patients. About 4% of study patients had pleural mesothelioma and 92% had lung cancer. Some of the study patients recently underwent chemotherapy or immunotherapy.
COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effects in Thoracic Cancer Patients
No significant safety concerns arose from COVID-19 vaccination.
Patients did report some side effects, mostly mild and short-lived. Side effects occurred more frequently after the second dose. Side effects included swelling, mild pain, chills, fatigue and low-grade fever.
Patients received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, spaced 28 days apart. Of patients in this study, 99% received the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Researchers measured patients’ immune protection against COVID-19 after each dose.
The second dose boosted COVID-19-fighting immune proteins by 20 – 100%. After two doses, the majority of patients had built moderate immune protection against the virus.
About 17% of patients still had a weak or undetectable response after two doses. Patients with at least some response were offered a third vaccine dose. The third dose boosted immune protection against COVID-19 in 88% of patients who received it.
Vaccination May Decrease Infection and Severity of Symptoms
Researchers followed study patients for about seven months. During this time, they monitored COVID-19 infection rates and severity. Less than 3% of patients developed COVID-19 infections in this time period. Half of these infections occurred in patients who had only received one vaccine dose.
All but one COVID-19-infected patient experienced only mild symptoms. One patient did require hospitalization due to COVID-19. However, the patient recovered enough to be discharged one week later.
What Does This Mean for Mesothelioma Patients?
Pleural mesothelioma patients participated in this study. As such, these results support the use of COVID-19 vaccines in cancer patients, including mesothelioma patients. Researchers did not break out their results according to cancer type. But, they did not name mesothelioma specifically in connection with patients not responding to vaccination.
Thus, mesothelioma patients may find it helpful to focus on the broad study results:
- Two vaccine doses generated immune protection against COVID-19 for most patients.
- A third dose generated immune protection from COVID-19 in 88% of patients who received it.
- Less than 3% of study patients contracted COVID-19. All recovered from the virus.
These results add to the body of research supporting the use of COVID-19 vaccines in cancer patients. To our knowledge, it is also the only COVID-19 vaccination study to include pleural mesothelioma patients. Thus, readers may consider COVID-19 vaccination and booster doses as another viable layer of protection from the virus.
Mesothelioma patients interested in vaccination should discuss the benefits with their oncologists. A mesothelioma doctor can help the patient determine the best course for their unique situation.
Regardless of vaccination status, mesothelioma patients should continue following other COVID-19 protection strategies. These include wearing masks in crowded areas and social distancing.
Note: The Meso Foundation recommends COVID-19 vaccination for patients undergoing immunotherapy treatment.