NEW YORK, NY (CBS Newspath)- Cancer often leaves survivors with a compromised immune system. That’s just one reason why several medical organizations are recommending cancer patients and survivors get the COVID-19 vaccine when they can.
Dr. Tobias Hohl, an infectious disease specialist at Memorial Sloan Kettering, says, “Cancer can affect the immune system and can affect, for example, the blood or the lymph nodes. And so, the infection-fighting capacity of our patients can be diminished.”
A recent study published in the journal JAMA Oncology shows cancer patients with COVID-19 are 23% more likely to require hospitalization. “Preventing COVID-19 also can help cancer patients get through their cancer therapies as quickly as possible,” says Dr. Hohl.
The American Cancer Society suggests patients talk with their doctor before getting any vaccine. Some patients will need to time their shots around treatment. Olivia Lingister was looking forward to retirement when she was diagnosed with liver cancer. Then the pandemic hit.
“COVID has kind of really, really, really interrupted my life,’ Lingister says. “It’s messed up everything. Losing my boyfriend. Losing my best friend. It’s been hard.”
Through it all, the 60-year-old New York grandmother has tried to stay positive and healthy. And she says that’s why she got the COVID-19 vaccine. “I’ve been through everything, you know, the surgeries, the chemo, it’s better to have a shot in the arm than to be on a ventilator,” Lingister says.
“You need all the tools in your toolbox to help you to make sure that you can be healthy, you can remain healthy and live a healthy life,” Lingister says. She says getting the shot also brings her one step closer to being able to see her grandson after a long year apart.
Doctors say there is no reason to believe that the vaccine isn’t safe for cancer patients or that patients would have different side effects. What we don’t know yet is how effective it will be in different cancer groups.