Blood Cancer and the Covid Vaccine

It’s been a question circulating among patients for months now. Can the Covid vaccines work in an immune system challenged by cancer?

Cancer patients weren’t included in the original studies of the vaccines. I can understand why. They were trying to ascertain if and how well the inoculations worked on the general population, and the world was in a hurry to produce viable vaccines. Now that we’ve got a number of shots that can help us fight off this plague, it’s appropriate to take a look at how the vaccines work in subgroups.

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) has recently released the results from two small studies – of seniors and blood cancer patients (hematologic malignancies such as leukemia and lymphoma). The 67 blood cancer patients who received either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines were tested for antibodies about 3 weeks after their second dose. The results were very interesting!

54% of the patients showed antibodies, which is great! Over half the participants had a successful vaccination. Unfortunately, that also means 46% didn’t. Zoinks! Before you stop doing your happy dance and sink into a well of despair, the investigators did say a test showing a lack of antibodies doesn’t necessarily mean the patient has no protection from the virus. Confused yet? Me too!

One thing seems quite clear, though. Those of us with blood cancers need to remain extra vigilant and continue to exercise caution. Don’t worry, we’ll get back to normal eventually. I know we will!

Below are links to the UPMC release and a brief report on both study results from KDKA CBS Pittsburgh.

UPMC Study
KDKA Report

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