Should Someone with Cancer Get the COVID-19 Vaccine?

Deborah Toppmeyer, MD, Chief Medical Officer; Chief of Medical Oncology, Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, explains why it is important for people with cancer to get a COVID-19 vaccine.


As a breast medical oncologist, I'm frequently asked: "Should I get the COVID vaccine?"  

And in a word, yes, yes, and yes!

COVID is a disease that no one wants to get, so when you have an opportunity to get the vaccine I would say go for it.

So why is it critically important that patients with a diagnosis of cancer get immunized? Because we know that immunocompromised patients have a greater likelihood of developing severe disease from COVID as opposed to someone who has an intact immune system,  

and what we do know from these vaccine trials is that people can develop mild or moderate illness but they do not develop severe illness, and that is the critical point here to understand. People are concerned about the vaccine and the potential side effects, but let me say, as of today, 55 million injections have been given to 11.9 percent of our population and in terms of serious side effects – and that would be anaphylaxis for example – to the shot just like one in 5,000 people get from penicillin – 2.3  in 1 million will experience a side effect like anaphylaxis.

What are the common side effects? 

Pain at the injection site, particularly with the second injection. You may have some flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, muscle aches and pains, headache. But these all go away within  24 to 48 hours. And I think it's very important that you understand that the more of us that get the COVID vaccine, the greater the likelihood is that we are going to move back to normalcy at some point in the late summer/early fall.  

Cancer patients are more at risk and if given that opportunity I very much encourage you to take it.

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