First Australian advice about COVID-19 Vaccines for cancer patients

Release Date

Cancer Australia today released the first evidence-based information about the COVID-19 vaccines for people affected by cancer in Australia

The responses to 25 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) from people with cancer and those affected by cancer are based on the latest evidence and guidance from around the world, and were developed in consultation with the cancer community and the Australian Government Department of Health.

To date around 300 million doses of the vaccines have been given worldwide, with Australia administering at least 86,000 since the start of the COVID-19 Vaccination Program on 22 February.

Professor Dorothy Keefe, CEO, Cancer Australia, said that so far, there had not been any reports of significant safety issues for people with cancer receiving the COVID-19 vaccines in other countries.

“People with cancer are more vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 and are at an increased risk of more severe infection,” said Professor Dorothy Keefe.

“Cancer patients were not included in the clinical trials, so there is limited evidence about whether the COVID-19 vaccines are safe for people with cancer or people who are immunocompromised because of cancer or cancer treatments.

“However by examining the evidence available, drawing on experience of vaccines for other infections in cancer patients and collating advice from our foremost cancer clinicians and experts in the region, we have developed these Frequently Asked Questions to address questions and concerns about the vaccines for people affected by cancer in Australia.”

“We provide information about the COVID-19 vaccines for people affected by cancer, including about safety, efficacy, and potential risks; when and where cancer patients can receive a vaccine; and whether the vaccine may impact cancer treatment. Cancer Australia has worked together with the Australian Government and the Australian cancer community to provide further clarity on the timing of vaccination for cancer patients.”

Professor Keefe emphasised however that the decision about whether to receive a COVID-19 vaccine should be made on an individual basis by the person affected by cancer, in consultation with their healthcare team.

“While providing the vaccine to cancer patients and their carers will reduce risk of infection or serious disease with COVID-19, patients with cancer should continue practices of social distancing, and maintaining good hand hygiene even after vaccination.”

Cancer Australia held a Virtual Roundtable on 19 February 2021 to provide a forum for Australian and New Zealand cancer control experts and consumers to discuss the roll-out of the vaccines. The meeting discussed the prioritisation of cancer patients, the clinical implications of vaccinating cancer patients, communications and messaging needs of consumers and health professionals, and how data would be collected about vaccination of people affected by cancer.

Tailored information on the COVID-19 vaccines for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people affected by cancer will be released by Cancer Australia. This information is being developed in collaboration with Indigenous health professionals.

The FAQs will be made available in 10 other languages to support the information needs of culturally and linguistically diverse populations: Arabic, Chinese – Simplified, Chinese – Traditional, Greek, Hindi, Italian, Korean, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.

This information is intended to supplement the broader information provided by the Australian Government for clinicians and the Australian community about COVID-19 vaccines in Australia.