COVID vaccine: Information for people on active cancer treatment

The NHS is rolling out COVID-19 vaccinations. People will be invited to get vaccinated when it’s their turn. We would strongly recommend that people with cancer* get vaccinated when invited, unless specifically advised not to by their medical team.

In general, the advice to people with cancer is not different to any other older adult with an underlying health issue. The benefits of vaccination are considerable for these groups. Further information is available in this NHS leaflet (correct at 31st December 2020).

*Excluding bone marrow/stem cell transplant patients (BMT patients). BMT patients should follow their own vaccination schedule as advised by their medical team.

About the vaccines

Two vaccines have now been approved for use in the UK:

  • Pfizer BioNTech vaccine
  • Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine

They are NOT live vaccines and cannot cause disease. That means they are safe for people undergoing cancer treatment and anyone with a weakened immune system.

It is possible that people with a weakened immune system may not develop as strong an immune response (immunity) when vaccinated but the potential benefits of being vaccinated are still significant.

We would advise patients to get vaccinated unless advised otherwise by their medical team but:

  • Not to get vaccinated on the same day as receiving most systemic anti-cancer therapy e.g. chemotherapy or immunotherapy. This does not apply to patients who are only having radiotherapy. People on daily tablet treatment can also be vaccinated the same day.
  • Not to get vaccinated while being treated for an infection.
  • Not to get vaccinated if feeling very unwell due to side-effects from systemic anti-cancer therapy.
  • Not to get vaccinated in the week before planned surgery and to wait until fully recovered after being discharged.

For more information

If you have any further questions about COVID-19 vaccines in relation to your cancer treatment, speak to your clinical team. Please do not call our Patient Hotline as this blocks the line for people who need urgent medical advice. We have produced this guide with information about COVID, flu and pneumococcal vaccines if you are undergoing cancer treatment.

Further information is available via the following links:

  • COVID-19 vaccine section of the NHS website
  • Macmillan Cancer Support’s COVID vaccine section
  • Cancer Research UK’s COVID vaccine section