Is Cancer patients too can opt for Covid-19 vaccine?
The whole world has been shaken by the SARS-CoV2 pandemic and is yet to be back to normalcy. This can be done only with safe and effective vaccines along with coordinated global vaccination programme. The reports of development and fast tracking of various Covid-19 vaccines along with stringent safety and precautionary measures to control its spread is the only glimmer of hope.
Of more than 200 vaccines being developed across the globe, three of them are being indigenously produced in India and two more are expected to be available in India in the first half of this year. Though all these vaccines are aimed at providing immunity against SARS-CoV2 infection, the presentation of antigens to the host for the development of antibodies is relied on various technologies (or platforms).
Based on data extrapolation from other vaccines and the mechanism of action of the Covid-19 vaccines (not live), it is conceivable that the efficacy and safety of vaccination against Covid-19 may be estimated to be like that of patients without cancer, although data from clinical trials are lacking. Beyond stem cell transplantation, the efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines can also vary in patients with distinct contexts of malignant disease (tumour type, disease extent, intrinsic or therapy-induced immunosuppression); however, the benefits of vaccination seem to outweigh the risks.
“Patients with cancer are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 because of the immunocompromising nature of cancer treatments. On top of that, progressing cancer itself depletes the immune system and leaves patients susceptible to infection. Admittedly, very few patients with active cancer or in active therapy were included in the trials. But assessment of studies available on vaccines, these look remarkably safe for cancer patients too.”
The timing of vaccination depends on individual therapy scenarios and may ideally occur before systemic therapy starts. But, if the patient has already started systemic therapy, it is reasonable to vaccinate during therapy. Physical distancing measures, masks, face shields, sanitizers and other hygiene measures are still required during the pandemic, including for patients with cancer, and should certainly accompany the vaccination strategies.
Dr Revanth Gangasani
Consultant Surgical Oncologist
Aware Gleneagles Global Hospital
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