Covid-19 vaccination and lung cancer

Following the recommendation from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and immunisation (JCVI) recommendation if you had your first or second dose of vaccination as someone with cancer you should have received or book a third “primary” dose. This is being offered to people who are considered immune-suppressed.  

This decision came after some studies showed that people who are immune-suppressed have lower levels of anti-bodies after the standard two-jab primary course. The data suggested that around 40% of people had low levels of antibodies.  

Who will have a third primary vaccine?

The third jab has been rolled out for people aged 12 and over with severely weakened immune systems. This includes lung cancer patients who are having or had recent immunosuppressive treatment, such as chemotherapy, targeted therapy and immunotherapy. 

It also includes people with leukaemia, aggressive lymphomas, immune-suppression due to HIV/Aids; those who have had recent stem cell transplants, and others on high doses of steroids. 

It is estimated around 500,000 people in the UK will be eligible for the third primary vaccine. 

Is this third vaccine the same as the booster jab?

No, the third dose of the Covid-19 vaccine is not the same as the booster jab currently being rolled out. A third jab will be offered to a group of people with weakened immune systems, including many lung cancer patients, to help improve protection against the virus. The booster is being given to the general public, who are eligible, to enhance resistance to the covid-19 virus to maintain levels of immunity for longer after 1st and 2nd doses. 

Should I get my third vaccination now?

Invitations have been sent by NHS to those who are eligible for a third primary vaccine. The letter may come from either your GP or the hospital where you are receiving treatment. You are eligible to have this 8 weeks after you have had a second vaccine dose. 

If you are currently on active treatment, your consultant will help identify when it is the best time to have your vaccine. For example, if you are having pulses of treatment, such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy, your consultant may decide it is best for you to have the third dose in the middle of your treatment. If you have any questions about the timing of your vaccine, speak to your consultant. People who are about to start treatment may be advised to have a third primary or booster jag before commencing treatment. Check if a flu vaccination would also be recommended for you. 

Do I have to shield again until I get my third vaccine?

No, you do not have to shield. Shielding advice was paused on 1st April 2021. You should follow current guidance on levels of social contact and activities within your home and in public places. You may wish to be more cautious than the advice given for the general community, to lower your risk of catching the virus. It is your personal decision if you choose to shield.  

Your clinical team may advise you to shield, or limit your social contacts, if you are about to start immunosuppressant treatment. 

It is also extremely important that you continue take extra precautions including washing your hands for at least 20 seconds, avoiding contact with anyone with potential covid-19 symptoms, maintaining social distancing where appropriate. Follow the guidance on the use of a protective face covering if you do go out. 

I have just been diagnosed with lung cancer. Can I have a third vaccine?

If you have not yet started your lung cancer treatment, you will not be offered a third vaccine. This is because you are likely to have a good immune response with just two doses.

If I had surgery, or treatment more than 12 months ago, will I be offered a third jab?

You will be offered a booster jab, but not a third dose as someone with immunosuppression. The decision to offer a third vaccine was made in winter 2021 and people are being encouraged to do this as soon as possible in response to the higher risk of infection posed by the omicron variant. If you have any questions or concerns about vaccination in relation to your previous cancer treatment, please contact your consultant or lung cancer nurse specialist.