People affected by cancer have many questions about the COVID-19 vaccines. Cancer Australia has compiled a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) based on input from cancer clinicians and people affected by cancer, as well as information and evidence currently available in Australia and internationally.
This information is intended to supplement the broader information provided by the Australian Government for clinicians and the Australian community about COVID-19 vaccines in Australia.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ)
When will I get the vaccine?
Many (but not all) people affected by cancer will be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in the second phase (phase 1b) of the Australian Government’s COVID-19 vaccine national roll-out strategy, which is expected to begin from mid-March 2021.
People affected by cancer fit into the priority group “Adults with an underlying medical condition” (and may also fall into some other groups in phases 1a or 1b, such as adults over the age of 70 years and aged care residents).
At this time, the people affected by cancer who fit into the priority group “Adults with an underlying medical condition” include those who:
- have blood (haematological) cancers, for example, leukaemia, lymphoma or myelodysplastic syndrome (diagnosed within the last 5 years)
- have other (non-haematological) cancers (diagnosed in the last 12 months)
- have chronic lung diseases
- are having chemotherapy or radiotherapy
- have had a bone marrow transplant in the last 24 months.
Speak to your healthcare professional if you are unsure which roll-out group you fit into.
Will the COVID-19 vaccines affect or interact with my cancer treatment(s)?
Currently, there is no information available from the COVID-19 vaccines clinical trials about whether the COVID-19 vaccines will affect or interact with cancer treatments. This is because most clinical trials for the COVID-19 vaccines did not include people with cancer.
Recommendations vary and there are a number of factors to consider for every individual, including:
- The type of cancer you have/had
- The type of treatment you are receiving/received
- The timing of the treatment you are receiving/received
- The type(s) of vaccine(s) available
- How your immune system is working.
There are some theoretical risks of immune-related side effects for COVID-19 vaccination for people receiving immunotherapy, including checkpoint inhibitors such as pembrolizumab, nivolumab and ipilimumab. However, international cancer organisations and Australian experts recommend vaccination after weighing the benefit of vaccination against risk.
If you are having treatment for cancer, speak to your healthcare team about the best timing for you based on your own situation.
Some organisations have provided recommendations for health professionals about the timing of the COVID-19 vaccines and cancer treatments. These are located at COVID-19 vaccines and cancer – health professional guidance on Cancer Australia’s website.
Where can people affected by cancer receive their COVID-19 vaccine?
For people affected by cancer, decisions about where to receive the COVID-19 vaccine may be made on an individual basis by the person affected by cancer, in consultation with their healthcare team.
COVID-19 vaccines in Australia will be provided by healthcare professionals through selected hospitals and general practitioners (GPs), GP-led Respiratory Clinics, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services, state vaccination clinics and pharmacies.
For more information about where the COVID-19 vaccines will be available, visit How COVID-19 vaccines will be distributed on the Australian Government Department of Health website. This webpage will be updated as more information becomes available.
Please visit Cancer Australia’s website for updated answers to questions you may have.
Our COVID-19 page also includes information and links on COVID-19 that you may find helpful.
We encourage you to stay in touch and seek support via our services by calling our ovarian cancer nurses on 1300 660 334 (Weekdays, 9am - 5pm AEDT) or by email on firstname.lastname@example.org