As COVID-19 cases return to the Victorian community, people affected by cancer are being urged to get vaccinated.
One in four people with cancer who contract COVID-19 die from the virus. That figure rises to one in three for people with blood cancers or lung cancer.
In addition, people with cancer are twice as likely to develop critical symptoms of the virus, leading to hospitalisation, ICU admissions and ventilation.
The Victorian COVID-19 Cancer Taskforce is driving a new campaign to strongly encourage people with cancer to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
Vaccination is safe and recommended for the vast majority of people with cancer, including people on active treatment and people with blood cancers. There is no evidence that people with cancer are at greater risk of side effects from the vaccine than anyone else.
Importantly, the vaccines are effective at both reducing the chances of contracting the disease and reducing the severity if it is contracted.
Even people who may have a lower immune response to the vaccine due to their cancer treatments are encouraged to be vaccinated. “Any protection for people with cancer is highly recommended against this dangerous virus,” said Professor Grant McArthur, Executive Director of the VCCC alliance and co-chair of the Victorian COVID-19 Cancer Taskforce. “Benefits far outweigh any small risk from potential vaccination side effects.”
Vaccination is vital for all Victorians but especially people who are at higher risk of severe disease or death if they were to contract the virus, and that includes people with cancer.
All people with cancer of all ages are eligible for vaccination now.
Professor McArthur declared, “Until people get vaccinated, COVID-19 will remain a ticking time bomb for our community, especially for people affected by cancer. As a cancer doctor and someone who has had cancer myself, I cannot emphasise the importance of this message enough. If you have got cancer get vaccinated.”
People on active treatment for cancer should consult with their doctor to discuss optimal timing for vaccination in relation to treatment cycles and any other individual considerations.
WATCH: Latest vaccination advice from the experts at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
The VCCN was established in March 2020 in response to the challenges involved with managing cancer care amid the current global health crisis and aims to provide support and advice to clinicians and health care services treating patients with cancer during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The VCCN is guided by a taskforce of expert members representing a wide range of disciplines including general practice, medical oncology, haematology, radiation oncology, paediatric and geriatric oncology, pharmacy and other specialities, as well as consumers, patient and government representatives.