The American College of Surgeons hosted a webinar last week where several cancer experts reviewed the available science showing that cancer patients can respond to the Covid-19 vaccine and mount an immune response. I found it helpful and the webinar will be available here in the near future

Panelists included:

  • Erin Bange, MD; Hematology and Oncology Fellow, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania
  • Laurie Kirstein, MD, FACS; Breast Surgical Oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
  • Lawrence Shulman, MD, MACP, FASCO; Deputy Director for Clinical Services, Abramson Cancer  Center at the University of Pennsylvania and Director of the Center for Global Cancer Medicine; Past Chair, Commission on Cancer.

These recommendations are based discussions held by the Covid 19 Vaccine Advisory Committee which ultimately lead to development of National Cancer Center Network Guidelines for vaccinating cancer patients.

Below is an excerpt from these national guidelines. Note: we continue to learn about Covid-19 and these guidelines will be updated as new scientific data becomes available. Ultimately, you as the patient should discuss getting the vaccine with your oncologist (especially if you are enrolled on a clinical trial!).


Preliminary Recommendations of the NCCN COVID-19 Vaccination Advisory Committee*

▪ Patients with cancer should be prioritized for vaccination (CDC priority group 1b/c) and should be immunized when vaccination is available to them.

▪ Immunization is recommended for all patients receiving active therapy, with the understanding that there are limited safety and efficacy data in these patients.

▪ Reasons for delay of vaccines are similar to those that impede delivery to the general public (eg, recent exposure to COVID-19), and there are also cancer-specific factors. Vaccination should be delayed for at least 3 months following hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) or engineered cellular therapy (eg, chimeric antigen receptor [CAR] T cells) to maximize vaccine efficacy.

▪ Caregivers and household/close contacts should be immunized when possible.

The recommendations below, which apply to the majority of my patients, are outlined in red.

Remember that studies so far have shown that cancer patients are at high risk for COVID-19–associated complications and at risk for more severe disease. Studies from University of Pennsylvania presented by Dr. Erin Bange which showed that patients with solid tumors, which include breast, prostate, lung, kidney, are able to mount an immune response to the vaccine that is similar to patients without a cancer diagnosis. Furthermore, the data showed that even if the patient was actively receiving chemotherapy, they were still able to respond to the vaccine.

Patient-focused treatment, and an individualized approach to oncology means Dr. Norleena Gullett is not just treating cancer, she's treating the whole person.