COVID-19 Vaccine FAQs for Cancer Patients

We encourage you to speak with your care team to address any questions or concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine. You can also find the most up-to-date information about the vaccine at rush.edu/vaccine.

Is it safe for me to get the vaccine if I am going through cancer treatment and/or am immunocompromised?

People with compromised immune systems were not included in the vaccine trials. Therefore, there is not enough data available to know if the COVID-19 vaccine will be safe and effective in this population.

However, it is likely to be as safe if you are undergoing cancer treatment and/or are immunocompromised because the vaccine does not involve the injection of a living virus. That the vaccine cannot give you COVID-19.

Additionally, it is especially important that you continue taking precautions like wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, avoiding large gatherings and washing your hands.

Will my chemotherapy or other medications that affect my immune system decrease my response to the COVID-19 vaccine? What about for bone marrow transplant patients?

Because any vaccine relies on the immune system to create the protection against the infection, it is possible that people who are immunocompromised or have a weakened immune system will not have as good of a response against the COVID-19 vaccine.

However, the vaccine clinical trials found that people who developed COVID-19 infection had much milder disease if they received the vaccine. That means if you receive the vaccine but still get COVID-19, it is likely to be a much milder case.

There is not enough data yet to know if patients who are receiving or who have received a bone marrow transplant would have a different response. We encourage you to discuss this with your transplant care team.

When I get a COVID-19 vaccine, will the cancer affect my response to vaccine?

This is not known for sure because those getting the vaccine on the clinical trials generally did not have active cancer or similar diseases. But it is possible that the disease itself could either decrease or heighten the response to the vaccine.

Is it possible that chemotherapy or other medications that affects my immune system will also increase my response to the COVID-19 vaccine and make me at risk for side effects?

This is probably not the case. However, patients receiving checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapy drugs and other medications that increase the immune system could possibly have a greater risk of experiencing side effects from the vaccine.

Will the COVID-19 vaccine cause any harmful effects on my cancer?

This is possible because vaccines stimulate the immune system. However, experience with many other vaccines indicates this is quite unlikely.

Please keep in mind, we do know that there are significant risks to cancer patients with COVID-19 infection. There is likely to be more benefit from the vaccine than any risk to making the cancer worse.

Is there anything we can learn from other vaccines such as the flu vaccine in patients who have cancer and/or compromised immune systems?

Yes. In the past, many of these same questions have been studied for the yearly flu vaccine. Those studies have shown that the flu vaccine is effective for helping to decrease cancer patients’ risk of getting the flu — and that even if the flu vaccine is less effective, it still provides some protection. For that reason, we routinely recommend the flu vaccine to our patients.

COVID-19 Vaccine FAQs for Cancer Patients

Find answers to common questions cancer patients have about the COVID-19 vaccines.

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Clinical Trials

We have a wide range of active clinical trials in Cancer Care.

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Cancer Urgent Care

At our urgent care clinic for cancer patients, you can get advanced care for unexpected or unusual symptoms throughout your cancer treatment. 

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