Your COVID-19 Vaccine Questions Answered

With new information released daily about COVID-19 and the COVID-19 vaccine, it’s difficult to know who to listen to and what everything means for the colorectal cancer community.

Dr. Swati Patel, Gastroenterologist, and Dr. Chris Lieu, Oncologist, both with the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Center, answered the colorectal cancer community's top questions to help patients and their care partners better navigate life in and out of treatment and ensure safety remains the top priority. 

Can I have a vaccine before/after my colonoscopy?

Dr. Patel: You can safely have your vaccine before or after your colonoscopy, however you may develop symptoms from the vaccine that could make preparing for or completing the procedure more difficult to tolerate. For example, some patients have fatigue or nausea from the COVID vaccine. You can imagine that these symptoms would make it difficult to complete the colonoscopy bowel preparation.  It is hard to predict whether you will have symptoms from the vaccine, thus, I suggest scheduling the colonoscopy at least 2 days after your vaccine. This should provide you enough time to fully recover from the vaccine side effects before you have to begin preparing for your colonoscopy.

Is there any difference between my 1st and 2nd dose and recommendations about when to have a  colonoscopy?

Dr. Patel: Patients appear to have more side effects with the 2nd dose of the vaccine, however I recommend the same precautions above for both 1st and 2nd dose.

Can I have a colonoscopy and a vaccine on the same day? 

Dr. Patel: Yes, the colonoscopy and vaccine can be completed on the same day. there is no data that the standard medications used for colonoscopy sedation affect the vaccine in any way.

If I have a flu shot-can I get a vaccine at about the same time frame? 

Dr. Patel: COVID-19 vaccines should be given alone with at least 14 days either before or after you get any other vaccines, including a flu vaccine. This is because there is currently limited information on the safety and effectiveness of getting other vaccines at the same time as a COVID-19 vaccine. As more information becomes available, this recommendation may change. Your healthcare provider can help you decide the best vaccination schedule for you and your family.

Should I avoid getting a vaccine if I am receiving chemotherapy?  Is there a specific recommendation about immunotherapy?

Dr. Lieu: No, unless undergoing a stem cell transplant, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) and the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) recommend receiving the vaccine.

Is it ok to have a vaccine while I am having radiation?

Dr. Lieu: Yes, it is safe to receive the vaccine while undergoing radiation therapy.

Is there any reason I should not receive the vaccination as a colorectal cancer patient in treatment?  What about if I am in maintenance therapy?

Dr. Lieu: It’s safe to receive the vaccine in active treatment, in maintenance therapy, and after completing treatment.

I am just diagnosed and getting ready to start treatment, should I try to get a vaccine before I start any treatment?

Dr. Lieu: Yes if possible, but it’s also okay to receive the vaccine during treatment too.

If I have had a primary colorectal cancer diagnosis, but metastasis to the lung, am I at increased risk of COVID-19?

Dr. Lieu: There is some conflicting data, but many believe that there is a slight increase in risk of complications with COVID-19 due to the underlying diagnosis of cancer.

I have a compromised immune system, is the vaccine safe for me?

Dr. Lieu: Yes, so far studies have shown no adverse impact for those with a compromised immune system.

Is the vaccine free or will I need insurance to access?

Dr. Lieu: At this time, it appears that the vaccine is being given free of charge.

Can I use ibuprofen or Tylenol post vaccine to help with body aches and pain?

Dr. Lieu: There have been some recommendations to avoid the use of these drugs, but practically speaking, I am not aware of any data that actually shows decreased immunity with these drugs. So from my standpoint it is okay.


More Information

NCCN COVID-19 Vaccination Guide for People With Cancer

On May 16, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released updated guidelines for those who are fully vaccinated.

  • If you are fully vaccinated, you can resume activities that you did prior to the pandemic.
  • Fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.
  • If you haven’t been vaccinated yet, find a vaccine.

In general, people are considered fully vaccinated:

  • 2 weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or
  • 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine

If you don’t meet these requirements, regardless of your age, you are NOT fully vaccinated. Keep taking all precautions until you are fully vaccinated.

What you can start to do if you’ve been fully vaccinated:

  • You can resume activities that you did prior to the pandemic.
  • You can resume activities without wearing a mask or staying 6 feet apart, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.
  • If you travel in the United States, you do not need to get tested before or after travel or self-quarantine after travel.
  • You need to pay close attention to the situation at your international destination before traveling outside the United States.
    • You do NOT need to get tested before leaving the United States unless your destination requires it.
    • You still need to show a negative test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before boarding an international flight to the United States.
    • You should still get tested 3-5 days after international travel.
    • You do NOT need to self-quarantine after arriving in the United States.
  • If you’ve been around someone who has COVID-19, you do not need to stay away from others or get tested unless you have symptoms.
    • However, if you live or work in a correctional or detention facility or a homeless shelter and are around someone who has COVID-19, you should still get tested, even if you don’t have symptoms.

What you should keep doing if you’ve been fully vaccinated:

  • You will still need to follow guidance at your workplace and local businesses.
  • If you travel, you should still take steps to protect yourself and others. You will still be required to wear a mask on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States, and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations. Fully vaccinated international travelers arriving in the United States are still required to get tested 3 days before travel by air into the United States (or show documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past 3 months) and should still get tested 3-5 days after their trip.
  • You should still watch out for symptoms of COVID-19, especially if you’ve been around someone who is sick. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should get tested and stay home and away from others.
  • People who have a condition or are taking medications that weaken the immune system, should talk to their healthcare provider to discuss their activities. They may need to keep taking all precautions to prevent COVID-19.

On March 8, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released highly anticipated guidelines for those who have received both doses of the vaccine. These recommendations apply to those who have been fully vaccinated for two weeks or more. According to the CDC, people are considered fully vaccinated for COVID-19 more than two weeks after they have received the second dose in a two-dose series (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) or two weeks after receiving a single-dose vaccine (Johnson and Johnson).

For the general population, those who are fully vaccinated can:

  • Visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing
  • Visit with unvaccinated people from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing
  • Refrain from quarantine and testing following a known exposure if asymptomatic

For now, the CDC encourages fully vaccinated people to continue:

  • Take precautions in public like wearing a well-fitted mask and physical distancing
  • Wear masks, practice physical distancing, and adhere to other prevention measures when visiting with unvaccinated people who are at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease or who have an unvaccinated household member who is at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease
  • Wear masks, maintain physical distance, and practice other prevention measures when visiting with unvaccinated people from multiple households
  • Avoid medium- and large-sized in-person gatherings
  • Get tested if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms
  • Follow guidance issued by individual employers
  • Follow CDC and health department travel requirements and recommendations

For more information on COVID-19 and colorectal cancer, including resources to navigate these challenging times, be sure to check out Fight CRC’s additional resources here.

2 thoughts on “Questions about the COVID-19 Vaccine? We’ve Got Answers.

  1. Hi Phylis! According to our medical experts, that should not be a problem. The CDC includes colonoscopies as a safe procedure to have done before or after a COVID-19 vaccination.

  2. Can I have a covid-19 booster vaccine a week after a colonoscopy/endoscopy? I am getting Pfizer but had J&J as my initial vaccine back in April, 2021.

    Thanks!

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