Coronavirus vaccine for people living with cancer
We know people with cancer have a lot of questions about the coronavirus vaccine. Here are some answers to the most common questions we've been asked.
On this page
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine update for cancer patients
- When will a coronavirus vaccine be available?
- When will people with cancer be given the vaccine? Will they be prioritised?
- Coronavirus vaccine and cancer treatment
- How do I get the vaccine?
- How effective is the vaccine?
- Will I get to choose which vaccine I receive?
- When will extremely vulnerable people get the vaccine?
- I am clinically vulnerable. Should my family get the vaccine?
- Do I need to continue shielding or social distancing?
- Talk to an expert now
- How we can help
Latest update - Thursday 8 April 2021
News and information about the vaccine is changing frequently. We will keep this page updated with new information when we have it.
We know there has been a lot of information in the media about different coronavirus vaccines. We understand that people with cancer and their friends and family will have a lot of questions. This page has answers to the most common questions we've been asked.
Coronavirus is having a huge impact on people living with cancer. Macmillan Cancer Support are doing the best we can to support people during this time. If you would like to talk, you can call the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00 or chat to one of our specialists online, 7 days a week 8am to 8pm.
On Wednesday 2nd December, it was announced that the coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer/BioNTech has been approved in the UK.
On Wednesday 30th December, it was announced that the Oxford University/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine has also been approved in the UK.
On Friday 8th January, it was announced that the Moderna coronavirus vaccine has been approved in the UK. These vaccines are now available.
Other vaccines are still being developed in clinical trials and should be available once they have been approved.
We understand that people with cancer are eager to know when they might be given the coronavirus vaccine.
We recommend that you get the vaccine when it is offered. For just now you should follow the government guidelines.
The decision about who gets the vaccine and when will follow advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). You can read more about this here.
Many people with cancer will be included as a ‘priority group’ for vaccination because of their age or clinical vulnerability. Your healthcare team will be in touch to invite you for a vaccine.
If you live in England and you are aged 70 or over or have been told you are extremely vulnerable, you can book a vaccination for yourself. To do this you must be registered with a GP. Find out more here.
Please be assured that we are reviewing information and guidance on a regular basis so that we can continue to keep people with cancer informed.
Can I have the coronavirus vaccine if I am having cancer treatment?
Although the Covid vaccines are new, healthcare professionals have a lot of experience of giving other vaccines to people living with cancer. Public health experts and cancer specialists have agreed that people living with cancer should receive the vaccine.
If you're having chemotherapy
Some cancer treatments, especially chemotherapy, can lower normal immunity. This can be a problem with certain types of vaccines called ‘live’ vaccines. Covid vaccines are not ‘live’ vaccines.
It is possible that the vaccines may be slightly less effective for people having chemotherapy or other cancer treatments. But it is still expected that the vaccine will give useful protection against the virus.
Other cancer treatments
The Covid vaccines can be given to people who are having hormonal therapies as part of their treatment for example people with breast or prostate cancer.
Experts on cancer immunotherapy have recommended that people on immunotherapy should receive the Covid vaccines. They can also be given to people who are receiving or who have received targeted therapies (including antibody treatments) as part of their therapy.
If you have had a stem-cell transplant your healthcare team can talk to you about the best time for you to have the vaccine.
You may find it helpful to talk to your cancer healthcare team who can answer any questions you might have about getting vaccinated.
When to have the vaccine
If you have been recommended to start treatment that affects your immune system such as chemotherapy or immunotherapy, then receiving a Covid vaccine before treatment starts may improve its effectiveness. But in some situations, people may need to start treatment before having the vaccine.
Your healthcare team can tell you about the options available in your situation.
The NHS has already started to give vaccines to people. You will be contacted by the NHS for your vaccine appointment. Or you may be contacted and asked to book an appointment. We recommend you have a vaccination when it is offered. You should continue to follow government guidance on keeping safe.
Effective vaccines save lives and reduce hospitalisations from coronavirus. Any vaccine that is approved is effective.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has recommended that as many people on their priority list of at-risk groups should be offered a first vaccine dose as soon as possible. They advise that then:
the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine can be given between 3 to 12 weeks after the first
the second dose of the AstraZeneca (Oxford) vaccine can be given between 4 and 12 weeks after the first.
We don’t yet know how long people who are vaccinated will be protected from coronavirus or if it prevents transmission.
At the end of March 2021, the JCVI recommended that people over the age of 16 living with adults who have a weakened immune system should be considered for vaccination.
There is now some evidence that vaccination may reduce the chance of passing coronavirus on. Because the vaccine may be less effective in people with a weaker immune system, vaccinating people they live with could help to reduce their chance of catching or becoming very unwell with coronavirus.
These recommendations are now being shared with the UK governments. For more information visit:
It is important that people still continue to follow the latest government advice about things like social distancing and shielding. Follow the advice and restrictions for where you live in the UK. Visit government websites for guidance on what you can and cannot do in:
If something is worrying you and you need to talk, we're here to listen. From questions about coronavirus, to cancer treatment, to financial advice, we're here for you.
To speak to our experts, you can: