COVID-19 vaccination Q&A
The UK is now rolling out a vaccination programme for COVID-19. This programme has identified priority groups and aims to offer vaccination to all adults. Here are some of the questions we have been asked about the vaccines and the vaccination programme.
Should I have the flu vaccination if I have cancer?
If you are clinically vulnerable, you are likely to be included in the groups offered an annual flu vaccination.
Current advice is that people will have their flu vaccination before and separately from their COVID-19 vaccination. This makes it easier to monitor and manage any side effects.
If you are unsure whether you have had flu vaccination in the last 12 months, you can check with your primary care team that your flu vaccination is up to date.
How many doses of covid-19 vaccination will I receive?
If you have had a cancer diagnosis before March 2020 you may be eligible for three primary doses of covid-19 vaccination. This will depend on how your immune system has been affected by your cancer and your treatment. If you were diagnosed with cancer after you received covid-19 vaccination you will be eligible for two primary doses and a booster. Guidance is available from the NHS on how and when you will be called for each vaccination round.
There may be further changes in how frequently and how many vaccinations are recommended as the pandemic unfolds and new variants emerge. Your clinical team will advise of any recommendations affecting you, either during your appointments or you may receive a letter from the NHS.
What are the side effects of the vaccination?
It is quite common for people to have some pain and inflammation at the spot where they have their injection, and these are not serious. Others experience some numbness in the arm. Some people have reported COVID- or flu-like symptoms for a few days following their vaccination.
Allergic reactions to the vaccines are not common and most people are able to receive them. Things that may stop you receiving a vaccine could be:
- known allergic reactions to some drugs
- previous reaction to a COVID-19 vaccine
- an allergy to any of the components of the vaccines
A food allergy would not necessarily in itself stop you from receiving a vaccination.
If you think any of these apply to you, check with your clinical team or GP about the suitability of the vaccine you are being offered.
Am I at no risk from COVID-19 following vaccination?
The vaccine reduces your likelihood of severe effects of the virus if you are infected. While it offers you greater protection, it does not mean you are 100% immune.
Researchers will continue to gather evidence about how well and how long the vaccine works in the population. This will build on the evidence of benefit found in the clinical trials that took place before the vaccines were authorised as safe to use in the UK.
Even when you have received your vaccination (two or more doses), you may still be affected by COVID-19 and may also be able to pass the virus on to people who may or may not have been vaccinated. You should continue to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines and practise social distancing.
Is it safe for me to be vaccinated if I am receiving, have received or am about to receive lung cancer treatment?
As these are not “live” vaccines, there is no evidence that they are harmful to anyone on cancer treatment, or who has had cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy, targeted therapy or immunotherapy.
Current guidance suggests that the risk from the vaccine is minimal. For people with cancer, any risk is far outweighed by the increased risk of becoming seriously ill if infected by COVID-19.
If you are receiving or are about to start treatment for your lung cancer, and you have been offered a COVID-19 vaccination appointment, speak to your clinical team. They will advise you whether it is best to have your vaccine before, during or after treatment. The current vaccines are not considered suitable for people with blood cancers.
How long will the vaccine keep me safe?
Because this is a new virus and the vaccines have only recently become available, the long-term benefits are still uncertain and are being monitored. It may be that an annual vaccine “top-up” is needed to keep people well protected from the worst effects of the virus.
What can I do to keep myself safe?
The impact of covid-19 has caused worry and concern amongst many people, including those who have lung cancer. Follow the advice on current measures to reduce your exposure to the virus. Encourage members of your household, friends and family to get vaccinated and follow guidelines. Do not meet up with others face to face if you or they are experiencing any covid-19 related symptoms. It is advised that you carry out a lateral flow test before socialising, and limit the number of people you are meeting. Meet in well ventilated spaces and maintain social distancing where practical.
The management and treatment for covid-19 has improved as medical teams have more evidence and experience as to how to treat the virus. For many people vaccination has reduced the severity of symptoms as well as likelihood of becoming infected. Although there are many pressures on the NHS if you are worried follow advice and contact the relevant health care team for support.
Where do I find further information?
General information on the vaccines is available on government websites. If you have a specific query linked to your cancer, your treatment or other health concerns, you can contact your clinical team. Updates and information are also available from our Ask the Nurse service by telephone on freephone 0800 358 7200 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
NHS Northern Ireland