By Kim Polacek, APR, CPRC - January 21, 2021
Since the COVID-19 vaccine approvals last month, people across the country have been lining up to receive their two-dose series. Vaccines have been hard to come by as shipments are sporadically making their way to states and local communities. Frontline health care workers and those 65 and older have been the first groups prioritized for the vaccine, but as more doses become available plans are underway to include additional groups at higher risk for contracting the virus, including cancer patients.
Moffitt Cancer Center began vaccinating patients last week. While cancer patients were not included in the initial clinical trials evaluating the efficacy of the vaccine, physicians are hopeful that the vaccine will work in immunocompromised patients.
“The vaccine is expected to be very safe for cancer patients, including those undergoing active treatment. We do, however, recommend that those patients receiving chemotherapy or immunotherapy receive vaccination at least two weeks before and after a round of planned therapy to allow the immune system time to recover and to better respond to the vaccine,” said Dr. Jeffrey Lancet, chair of the Malignant Hematology Department at Moffitt.
Lancet added that patients who have had a bone marrow transplant should wait a little longer before receiving the vaccine. “We are asking our transplant patients to wait three to six months. These patients are rebuilding their immune system and would be less likely to respond to the vaccine.”
While doctors say the vaccine is safe for cancer patients, the question remains how effective it will be for this group. Moffitt has launched a first-of-its-kind study to answer that very question. Building off our Total Cancer Care® Protocol, a longitudinal study following patients throughout their cancer journey from diagnosis to survivorship, clinicians and researchers will evaluate cancer patients who receive COVID-19 vaccination at Moffitt.
Patients will have their blood drawn prior to each dose of the vaccine, as well as a third blood draw 28 days after completing the vaccination series.
“After you have had a COVID-19 infection or received the vaccine, your body makes antibodies. These antibodies are your immune system’s way of remembering the threat and how to eliminate it. Our blood draws for this study will be measuring the number of COVID-19 antibodies in the patients’ blood and if they are long-lasting in the body,” said Dr. Anna Giuliano, founding director of the Center for Immunization and Infection Research in Cancer at Moffitt.
It is important to note the study is only for Moffitt patients currently enrolled in Total Cancer Care. Patient care teams are reaching out to those who qualify for the vaccine as doses become available. However, doctors say if you can receive the vaccine sooner from your county, don’t wait to receive it from Moffitt.
For more information about the COVID-19 vaccine, please visit Moffitt.org/COVID-19.