September 2021

On September 22, 2021, the FDA authorized a single booster shot of the Pfizer- BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at least six months after the first series for those: 

  • 65 years of age and older;
  • 18 through 64 years of age at high risk of severe COVID-19; and
  • 18 through 64 years of age whose frequent institutional or occupational exposure to SARS-CoV-2 puts them at high risk of serious complications of COVID-19 including severe COVID-19.

Dr. Chris Lie, an Oncologist at the University of Colorado provided an overview on the vaccine booster shots and everything individuals with cancer should know about the vaccine and booster shots. You can listen in here

Common questions Dr. Lieu addressed included: 

Q: Who can get a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine?

  • Receive active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood.
  • Received an organ transplant and are taking medicine to suppress the immune system.
  • Have either had a stem cell transplant within the last two years or are taking medicine to suppress the immune system.
  • Are taking drugs such as high-dose steroids or other medications that may cause severe suppression of the immune system.

Q: Would a third COVID shot have to be the same brand of vaccine I got originally?

Ideally yes. Your third vaccine dose should be the same type (Pfizer/Moderna) you received when you were first vaccinated. The third shot can be given to you when it’s been at least 4 weeks (28) days since your second shot if you are considered immunosuppressed based on the criteria determined by the CDC.

Q: Can I get an additional COVID-19 sgot if I received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?

Data are still emerging as to whether an additional dose is necessary for those who received the J&J vaccine. There is no current recommendation for an extra dose for people who received the J&J COVID-19 vaccine, even if they have a qualifying medical condition.

Q: Who should not get a booster shot right now?

People receiving a stem cell transplant or CAR T-cell therapy should wait at least three months after treatment to get vaccinated.

August 2021

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized an additional dose of the COVID-19 vaccine for people who are moderately to severely immunocompromised -- this includes colorectal cancer patients.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), this includes those who are in active treatment for solid tumor and hematologic malignancies, those who have received a solid-organ transplant and are taking immunosuppressive therapy, and those who have received CAR-T or hematopoietic stem cell transplants. To read a full list of inclusion criteria, you can visit the CDC website.

According to the FDA, this authorization was updated for the Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccines. The third dose can be administered at least 28 days after the second dose of the same vaccine to eligible patients 18+ for the Moderna vaccine and 12+ for the Pfizer vaccine. The updated authorization does not currently include the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine. 

In partnership with Fight CRC, the Colorado Cancer Screening Program is hosting a webinar on September 20 at 4pm EST to discuss COVID-19 and cancer updates. You can register here.

To get a better sense of what these changes mean for our community, we spoke briefly to Dr. Chris Lieu, Medical Oncologist at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

What do cancer patients, immunocompromised, or those with co-morbidities need to know about the delta variant?

That they are still very protected by the vaccine and they should follow the CDC guidance to mask indoors.

Should all cancer patients and survivors wear a mask when out and about?

Mainly when inside. Outdoors are not as concerning.

What is your advice to patients in treatment concerning if they should get a vaccine during treatment or post treatment?

It is totally okay to get the vaccine during and post treatment. Additionally, the most recent guidance is to go ahead and get the third booster shot.

Do you recommend all patients and survivors get the booster COVID vaccine?

Yes, absolutely.

Is the booster COVID vaccine different than the originally approved Moderna and Pfizer vaccines? Should all cancer patients and survivors get a booster?

It is essentially the same shot.  All patients that are immunocompromised, in other words, patients that are on treatment, should get the booster

If you had the J&J do you need a booster as well since it was a single shot?

The data is still pending on this, but I do believe that will eventually be the case.

As we are heading into the fall/winter and flu season, what do we need to know about the COVID vaccines and the flu shot?

The recommendation will be to go ahead and get the flu vaccine as well, mainly to prevent a dreaded combination of COVID and flu simultaneously.

As COVID is a virus, it’s here to stay. What do we need to be thinking about as long-term as patients, navigators, and families to continue our lives and adjust?

Time will tell. I suspect this will be something that we deal with forever, but there are two likely changes.  #1 is that there will likely be a form of herd immunity, which will help and #2, viruses such as coronavirus will become less deadly over time, as many viruses do.

Is there ever a time that a patient should consider delaying their treatment or screening based on what we know about the delta variant?

No, not at this time.

For navigators and others who are working with patients who are scared and unwilling at this time to get the vaccine, what advice would you give them to help their community increase COVID vaccination rates?

I would point to the safety data and also remind people that these vaccines have been around for a long time. We were using both the Moderna and BioNTech (Pfizer) vaccines in 2015 and 2016 for cancer!

I would also point to the benefits of getting vaccinated. Mainly having a tremendously decreased risk of getting hospitalized!

Any other advice to give patients and survivors about management of their health in this unique time?

I think we are close to seeing the last wave of this. Hang in there and get your vaccine! You are protected and we are close to getting to a place where we will have to deal with COVID but not be paralyzed by it anymore.

As always, it’s incredibly important to speak with your provider to ensure you’re receiving the best care possible based on your care and treatment.

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