Covid: More than half of double-vaccinated blood cancer patients not effectively protected

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Blood cancer is a type of cancer that affects your blood cells. Over 40,000 people are diagnosed with blood cancer each year in the UK, and over 250,000 people are currently living with blood cancer, according to Blood Cancer UK. A study suggests that many double-vaccinated blood cancer patients remain vulnerable to coronavirus.

Indeed, more than half of double-vaccinated blood cancer patients have been left with little protection against COVID-19, new research has found.

Data from the SOAP-02 trial shows 57 percent of blood cancer patients did not develop the effective antibodies for an immune response to the virus after their second vaccines.

The trial is led by a cross-institutional collaboration between King’s College London and the Francis Crick Institute, with support from Cancer Research UK.

As this study shows that over half of blood cancer patients are unable to mount an antibody response despite being vaccinated twice, the authors argue for continuing public health measures to limit transmission, and the urgency of the booster programme.

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They suggest these vulnerable groups need to be protected by people continuing to wear masks, by their social distancing in crowded areas such as public transport, and by the vaccination of school-age children.

The findings show that solid cancers, such as breast, urological or skin cancer, also showed poor responses to single-dose vaccination, but unlike their blood cancer counterparts, these patients showed strong responses to a second vaccine dose given at either three weeks or 12 weeks.

It suggests delaying the second vaccine dose extends the time period over which cancer patients as a whole remained extremely vulnerable.

The SOAP-02 trial assessed 159 individuals at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, including 31 controls, 72 solid cancer and 56 number blood cancer patients, and their responses following completion of the two-dose COVID-19 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.


Lead author Dr Sheeba Irshad, a senior clinical lecturer from King’s College London, said: “COVID-19 vaccines are very effective and safe for majority of the population, but people with moderate to severe compromise of their immune system are not completely protected after the initial dose or after both doses.”

They added: “And so, masks and other COVID-19 protective measures continue to remain necessary for patients particularly with blood cancers.

“It is also important for our patients to take up the offer of additional dose/s of COVID-19 vaccine recommended to them as part of the continued primary vaccination series.”

Lead author Professor Adrian Hayday from King’s College London and The Francis Crick Institute added: “With many cancer patients going about their daily routines remaining largely unprotected, society should continue to mask-up and maintain distance, while scientists investigate ways of make vaccines more effective in cancer patients.”

Professor Charles Swanton, chief clinician at Cancer Research UK, said: “These results add to a growing body of evidence confirming the vulnerability of patients with blood cancers during the Covid pandemic despite being vaccinated.

“As the world begins to return to normal, we must not forget vulnerable patients like this, who will need ongoing measures to protect them from transmission and additional approaches to reduce the risk of severe disease. If not, we could see them being confined to isolation approaches for the foreseeable future.”

Blood Cancer UK’s website says that even if your immune system is not functioning fully as a result of blood cancer, the coronavirus vaccine is still likely to offer some protection, and it’s still advisable to have it.

It notes that if your cancer treatment is affecting your immune system, your healthcare team will advise you on the best time to get your vaccine.

The charity says if you have a weakened immune system, or are on a medicine that affects your immune system, you have a problem with bruising or bleeding, you use a blood thinning medicine or medicine to stop blood clotting, you can still have the coronavirus vaccine, but you should talk to your healthcare team first.

The Pfizer, Oxford-AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines are all considered to be safe in people with compromised immune systems.

Adults and children aged 12 and over who are severely immunosuppressed should get a third dose of the Covid vaccine this autumn.

In England, you should be contacted by your GP or hospital team offering you a third dose.

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