Study suggests cancer patients should stay current on COVID-19 boosters

cancer patiens

Evgenly Shkolenko/iStock 

Yesterday in Nature Communications a study shows cancer that patients who are up to date on vaccines and have received COVID-19 boosters are more protected against death and serious complications than unvaccinated patients.

Cancer patients were not included in key randomized clinical trials on vaccine efficacy (VE), the authors of the study write, but they are at increased risk of death and serious illness from COVID-19 infections. Those especially at risk include lung cancer patients, those with hematologic cancer, and those undergoing chemotherapy. 

The authors said prospective data on immunogenicity following initial vaccination have shown that cancer patients develop protective antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 but in lower rates than the general population. 

In the study, Spanish researchers looked at data from clinical registries on 184,744 cancer patients in Catalonia, Spain. Half of the patients (92,372) had received at least the first complete immunization series, and the other half (92,372) had not been vaccinated at the time of the study.

All participants had received a cancer diagnosis from 2015 to 2020. The most common cancers included were breast, prostate, and colorectal. 

The proportion who received one, two, and three (booster) doses of COVID-19 vaccines were 87.2%, 84.9%, and 68.2%, respectively, the authors said.

Vaccine protection waned by 120 days 

The researchers found that cancer patients had 51.8% (95% confidence interval [CI], 40.3% to 61.1%) and 58.4% (95% CI, 29.3% to 75.5%) protection against COVID-19 hospitalization and COVID-19 death, respectively after full (two-dose) vaccination and 77.9% (95% CI, 69.2% to 84.2%) and 80.2% (95% CI, 63.0% to 89.4%) after a booster dose. 

Protection from booster doses was high, hovering around 75%, the authors said, but waned significantly by 120 days post-injection.

"Patients should be encouraged to get vaccinated if not and boosted if they have had only two doses," the authors concluded. "Because of the higher risk of breakthrough infections, hospitalizations, and death compared to healthy individuals, patients with cancer should be prioritized in future additional dose studies and vaccination campaigns."

Patients should be encouraged to get vaccinated if not and boosted if they have had only two doses.

In an ISGlobal press release on the study, co-senior author Otavio Ranzani, MD, PhD, said the results "clearly demonstrate that vaccination against COVID-19 significantly reduces mortality and serious complications among cancer patients, especially those who have received the booster dose."

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