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Guidance Issued for COVID-19 Vaccination of Cancer Patients

THURSDAY, Jan. 28, 2021 -- In a new guidance statement from the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), recommendations are presented for COVID-19 vaccination of cancer patients.

Noting that large cohort studies have shown that cancer patients are at high risk for COVID-19-associated complications, indicating a clear need for vaccination, Steve Pergam, M.D., M.P.H., from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, and colleagues from the NCCN COVID-19 Vaccination Advisory Committee developed recommendations relating to vaccination for cancer patients.

According to the guidance document, patients with active cancer on treatment, those planning to start treatment, and those immediately posttreatment should be prioritized for vaccination and immunized when vaccination is available. Although limited safety and efficacy data are available for use of the COVID-19 vaccines in patients receiving active therapy for cancer, immunization is recommended for these patients. Reasons for delay of vaccination are similar to those in the general population and include recent exposure to COVID-19, as well as cancer-specific factors. To maximize vaccine efficiency, vaccination should be delayed for at least three months after hematopoietic cell transplantation or engineered cellular therapy. Caregivers and household/close contacts of cancer patients should undergo vaccination when possible and should be considered for early vaccination. Additional risk factors for cancer patients and other factors linked to COVID-19 complications should be considered, including patient age, comorbidities, and social and demographic factors.

"The evidence we have shows that people receiving active cancer treatment are at greater risk for worse outcomes from COVID-19, particularly if they are older and have additional comorbidities, like immunosuppression," Pergam said in a statement.

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