Appointments continue to open for COVID-19 vaccination, particularly for those with special conditions. Mesothelioma and other cancer patients may wonder if they should be vaccinated. Medical organizations continue to release their recommendations for use of the coronavirus vaccines. So far, various medical groups have recommended most people with cancer or a history of cancer should get the vaccine.
Recently, the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (Meso Foundation) recommended COVID-19 vaccinations for mesothelioma patients receiving immunotherapy.
COVID-19 Vaccine Recommendations for Cancer Patients
Patients with mesothelioma and other cancers are considered high risk for coronavirus complications. If contracted, patients may experience life-threatening symptoms. Now that vaccine appointments are opening up, many cancer patients are wondering if and when they should get vaccinated.
A variety of medical agencies and institutions have recommended cancer patients get vaccinated. However, the recommendations are based on individual circumstances. For instance, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and MD Anderson Cancer Institute recommend the vaccine for cancer patients. This may include patients in active treatment, those with a history of cancer and survivors.
Specifically, medical experts recommend vaccination as long as vaccine components are not contraindicated. This means patients may consider getting vaccinated as long as there are no conditions or factors present indicating the vaccine could cause them harm.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified the following contraindications:
- A severe allergic reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine or its components
- An immediate allergic reaction to the vaccine or its components
- An immediate allergic reaction to polysorbate (a common ingredient in childhood vaccines such as DTaP)
These contraindications apply to both available vaccines.
Even with these recommendations in place, cancer patients should talk to their doctor. Specialists can provide recommendations based on individual circumstances.
COVID-19 Vaccine for Mesothelioma Patients Undergoing Immunotherapy
For mesothelioma patients, the Meso Foundation has recommended vaccination for those receiving immunotherapy. Their recommendation aligns with guidance from the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC).
The SITC recommendations include:
- Patients receiving immunotherapy as a standard regime or as part of a clinical trial may receive a COVID-19 vaccine when available to them.
- The only relevant contraindications for cancer patients at this time are patient age and/or a history of severe allergic reaction to similar vaccine components.
- Immunosuppressed patients may not mount a robust immune response against vaccines. In some cases, patients may need additional booster vaccinations. This has not yet been studied in clinical trials.
- The SITC does not recommend experimental or non-FDA-approved vaccines outside of the context of a clinical trial.
The SITC also noted there is currently limited data available around possible interactions between immunotherapies and the COVID-19 vaccines. As a result, the agency’s recommendations may change over time as more data is collected.
As with any treatment, patients should discuss the potential risks and benefits with their doctor.
Should Mesothelioma Patients Not Receiving Immunotherapy Get Vaccinated?
The Meso Foundation and other health institutions have not currently made any other recommendations specific to mesothelioma patients.
Various organizations, such as ASCO, have recommended cancer patients receive the vaccine as long as there are no contraindications. However, each patient should talk to their doctor about their own case. A doctor’s recommendations may vary based on other factors, such as the patient’s treatment plan.
“I have no real concerns that there will be big surprises when it comes to safety for the cancer patient population. The risk to these patients from COVID is high and the risks from the vaccines appear very low. Most should be vaccinated. At the same time, we need to learn from these patients and follow them closely for both efficacy and safety.”
– Dr. Gary Lyman, public health researcher and oncologist at Fred Hutch (source)
Initial studies of the vaccines did not include those getting treated with immunosuppressive therapies, such as chemotherapy. This is standard practice in vaccine development. Doctors will monitor the efficacy in more vulnerable populations, including cancer patients.
Ultimately, getting a COVID-19 vaccine is a personal decision. Mesothelioma patients should talk to their doctor about their individual circumstances. They can advise on risks, benefits and timing for patients interested in the vaccine.