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As the fifth wave of COVID-19 continues to spread through Hong Kong, HKIOC would like to share some answers to frequently asked questions regarding COVID-19 vaccination for cancer patients and their carers, with reference to guidance issued by The Hong Kong Cancer Therapy Society1.

If you are living with hepatitis B, you may find out more about receiving the COVID-19 vaccine in this article (Available in Chinese only).

1. What if I have cancer, or currently on cancer treatment?

Patients with cancer are generally eligible for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccination.

  • Cancer patients receiving immunosuppressive therapy (e.g. chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy or radiotherapy) should NOT receive live-attenuated vaccine. Live-attenuated vaccines are usually contraindicated in patients undergoing immunosuppressive therapy2-3. The currently available COVID-19 vaccines in Hong Kong (Sinovac CoronaVac – an inactivated vaccine, or Fosun/BioNTech Comirnaty – mRNA vaccine) are generally considered safe in cancer patients.
  • Although the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccine is expected to be lower in patients undergoing immunosuppressive therapy, the protection is still high and clinically relevant.
  • All cancer patients who have not yet received the first dose of COVID-19 vaccines are strongly advised to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
  • If you are receiving any active cancer treatment, you should discuss with your oncologist about the best time to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in relation to your cancer treatment. For patients receiving chemotherapy, it is generally recommended to separate the vaccination and chemotherapy dose by 1-2 weeks to avoid overlapping side effects and to increase the potential for the immune system to mount a response to the vaccine.
  • For those at high risk of COVID-19 infection, discussion should be conducted with their oncologists about receiving the 3rd booster dose at an earlier time4.
  • Government advice recommends an additional dose (i.e., the 4th dose) of COVID-19 vaccine for individuals with weakened immune for better protection.
  • Given the potential for a reduced immune response to vaccination in cancer patients, it is important to maintain adequate personal protective measures. Thus, we should continue to observe hand hygiene, social distancing and follow all the public health and infection control measures.
  • Open discussion between patients, families and healthcare professionals should be held to clear any misunderstanding of COVID-19 vaccines.

2. What if I am a cancer survivor?

If your cancer is in remission and you are not currently receiving cancer treatment, your eligibility to receive the COVID-19 vaccine is the same as people without cancer, provided that you do not have:

  • Uncontrolled medical illnesses such as diabetes or unstable cardiovascular disease
  • No known history of severe allergy
  1. Latest Update of COVID-19 Vaccination for Patients Living with Cancer & FAQ (February, 2022 Edition). (2022, February).
  2. Rubin LG, Levin MJ, Ljungman P et al. 2013 IDSA clinical practice guideline for vaccination of the immunocompromised host. Clin Infect Dis 2014; 58 (3): 309-318.
  3. Lopez A, Mariette X, Bachelez H et al. Vaccination recommendations for the adult immunosuppressed patient: A systematic review and comprehensive field synopsis. J Autoimmun 2017; 80: 10-27.
  4. Vaccines for COVID-19. Official Website from COVID-19 Vaccination – Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Vaccines for COVID-19 | CDC