COVID-19 Vaccination Boosters: What Cancer Patients Need to Know

We all know what COVID-19 is and that it is going to be a part of our lives for a few more days. And as the number of cases of the people infected by the disease dip and rise across the nations, getting immunity against the viral infection is the first plan of action for any country’s healthcare system. Therefore, vaccination and prevention are two crucial aspects that aid our battle against any outbreak.  And it is no different for a person already living with another type of affliction, and in this case, we mean cancer. In fact, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) issued a call in December 2020 for patients with cancer to get the immunizations as soon as feasible. It is because cancer patients were twice as likely to die from COVID-19 as persons without cancer, according to their examination of medical evidence.

A struggling team may only need a fresh infusion of players—a shot in the arm, if you will—to give them the power, energy, and passion they need to compete. And it is a sentiment which we all can agree to.

Additional COVID-19 vaccination doses are being recommended for cancer patients, people with compromised immune systems, and others who may be at high risk of contracting the virus. These extra shots, according to health experts, are meant to help better immunize patients who didn’t obtain enough protection from the initial two vaccination shots due to compromised immune systems, as well as those whose immunities may be diminishing months after their double doses.

During the peak of the lockdown in 2020, data from 41 cancer facilities throughout India, which handle one-third of the country’s cancer burden, reveal a significant drop in the number of new registrations, follow-up visits, cancer surgeries, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy sessions. So even cancer treatment took a back seat. There has been some confusion regarding who is eligible, the difference between booster shots and a third dose, other kinds of boosters fit for a cancer patient, etc. Let’s address these concerns one by one.

Who is eligible for booster shots?

People with moderate or severe immune weaknesses, such as cancer, HIV, or particular immunodeficiency syndromes, may not have received the full effect of their initial COVID-19 vaccination doses, according to research. Immune cells may very well be compromised by cancer treatments, making it more difficult for the body to fight infection. They may also reduce the effectiveness of immunizations. Patients should discuss the timing of their shot with their doctor or oncologist in order to get the most out of it.

What’s the difference between booster shots and additional shots?

There isn’t much. In fact, seeing them as fundamentally the same shot—they’re simply given different titles depending on why they’re provided—might assist. When enough time has passed since the initial dosage of the mRNA vaccine—at least six months, according to experts—immunity to the virus is more likely to be decreasing.

The “third shot” is given to persons with impaired immune systems, such as cancer patients, who may not have had enough protection from the first round of vaccinations and could benefit from the extra dose to better protect them against infection. Anyone receiving active cancer therapy should discuss the timing of their shot with their doctor.

Are there other kinds of boosters for cancer patients?

Not at the moment. Everyone is being given the same government certified vaccine and booster shot for COVID-19.

After a rocky start, India has increased vaccines to a 7-day rolling average of more than 4.2 million daily doses, the highest in the world. Despite the vast 1.35 billion population, barely 20% of the population has got both doses, and just under half of the population has received at least one dose.

Vaccination is currently the only proven method of reducing the risk of COVID-19 and its consequences. To reduce the hazards of immunosuppressive medications, cancer patients should be given priority for immunization. Specific techniques, such as decreased intervals between doses and booster shots, may be required with the understanding that they may not produce a robust immunological response to the vaccine. Despite the uncertainties surrounding the possibility and severity of future COVID-19 waves (or other future pandemics), it is obvious that health systems around the world must be prepared to prioritize healthcare areas other than pandemic management. 

Do not hesitate to talk to your oncologist or onco-specialist about getting a booster shot. They will guide you as per your treatment plan. 

Call us or book an appointment online if you’ve put off cancer screening or treatment due to the pandemic. 

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