Cancer Patients Face Tough Decisions While Searching for COVID-19 Vaccine

Cancer patients were excluded from clinical trials of the vaccines, but for some, the benefits may outweight the risks.

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The search for a COVID-19 vaccine has been especially frustrating for cancer patients who must decide if the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks to those undergoing treatment.

Breast cancer patient Jordan Ramirez, of Dallas, first had to decide whether to get the vaccine and then had to navigate the lists of online sign-up forms in search of a vaccine provider.

Ramirez, who is a thyroid cancer survivor, said when the pandemic started she was prepared to keep her health as a top priority, but what she didn't expect was another cancer diagnosis.

Ramirez said she found a lump during a self-exam of her breast and that doctors later determined it was stage two breast cancer.

She is undergoing six rounds of chemotherapy, a treatment that lowers her immune system and puts her at greater risk for serious complications if she catches COVID-19.

"We know, because of the pandemic, how isolating that can be, but when you're going through something like cancer, I can just tell you it is intensely more isolating," said Ramirez.

Her treatment may also put her at greater risk for adverse reactions to the new COVID-19 vaccine. Cancer patients were excluded from clinical trials and it's generally recommended anyone undergoing chemo or radiation hold off on vaccines, except for the flu.

"If you're in the midst of treatment, such as chemo, that also could present a challenge on the vaccine," said American Cancer Society's Executive Vice President Jeff Fehlis.

However, Fehlis said patients and their doctors may decide the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks, especially if coronavirus fear has kept patients from getting life-saving treatments.

For Ramirez, the stakes are simply too high to not get vaccinated.

"Mainly, as a mother, because that's been the hardest part. It's taking the things away from kids that they love," said Ramirez.

The American Cancer Society published this information for cancer patients and their doctors.

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