Coronavirus vaccines and 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.

Should people with cancer get the coronavirus vaccine?

Public health experts and cancer specialists have agreed that people living with cancer should receive the vaccine. The coronavirus vaccines that are available can be given to people who are having cancer treatment. Vaccines save lives and reduce the need for hospital stays from coronavirus.

Vaccines can be given before, during or after cancer treatment. If you are due to start cancer treatment or have cancer surgery your medical team may recommend that you have a vaccination before treatment begins. Having a vaccination before treatment gives a better chance of protection. 

How effective is the vaccine?

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. 

How is the vaccine given?

Most vaccines are given as two injections. The vaccines offer significant protection after a single dose, at least in the short term. The second dose completes the course and provides better protection.

Third vaccine dose

The Joint committee on vaccination and immunisation (JCVI) recommends that anyone whose immune system was low (immunosuppressed) at the time they had their first or second vaccination should be offered a third dose. This is to help give more protection against the virus. 

The JCVI gives guidance to the whole of the UK. There are plans for this to come into effect in England this Autumn. We will update our information when Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland announce their plans.

Who can have a third dose?

Those entitled to a third dose include people:

  • with blood cancer   
  • who had chemotherapy or radiotherapy that lowered their immune system in the 6 months before they were vaccinated
  • who have had either an allogeneic or an autologous stem cell transplant in the last 24 months
  • who had a stem cell transplant more than 24 months ago but who have ongoing problems with their immune system.
People with non-cancer conditions that affect their immune system can also have a third dose. 

How do I get the third vaccine dose?

You will hear from your GP practice or hospital team. If you are currently having treatment, your specialist can advise about the best time to have the vaccine in your particular situation.

I have other questions about the vaccine. Who can I speak to?

You may find it helpful to talk to your cancer healthcare team who can answer any questions you might have about getting vaccinated. They can also talk to you about the best time for you to have the vaccine. 

Or to speak to our experts, you can:

Easing of coronavirus restrictions

As coronavirus restrictions are starting to ease, it is understandable that this might be a worrying and uncertain time for people living with cancer. We have information about the support that's available, as well as advice to help you stay safe and cope with uncertainty.

Read more about the easing of coronavirus restrictions.