Cancer centers giving third doses of COVID-19 vaccine

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The National Comprehensive Cancer Network's updated COVID-19 vaccination guidelines now recommend cancer patients receive a third dose of mRNA vaccine. 

Centers including Houston-based MD Anderson Cancer Center and Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic Cancer Center are following the recommendations and have started administering shots. 

The following groups of people should receive a third shot, according to the network's Aug. 31 update: 

  • Patients with solid tumors (either new or recurring) receiving treatment within one year of their initial vaccine dose, regardless of their type of cancer therapy
  • Patients with active hematologic malignancies regardless of whether they are currently receiving cancer therapy
  • Anyone who received a stem cell transplant or engineered cellular therapy (e.g. CAR T-cells), especially within the last two years
  • Any recipients of allogeneic stem cell transplant on immunosuppressive therapy or with a history of graft-versus-host disease, regardless of the time of transplant
  • Anyone with an additional immunosuppressive condition, such as HIV, or being treated with immunosuppressive agents unrelated to their cancer therapy

The guidelines are based on the latest data and recommendations from the FDA and CDC regarding booster doses for cancer patients and other immunocompromised individuals, which state that eligible patients should receive a third shot at least 28 days after their second dose. 

"Even after a third dose of vaccine, we still recommend immunocompromised people — such as those undergoing cancer treatment — continue to be cautious, wear masks, and avoid large group gatherings, particularly around those who are unvaccinated," said Steve Pergam, MD, co-leader of the network's COVID-19 vaccination advisory committee and associate professor at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. 

The White House has said all Americans will be eligible to receive booster doses this fall — a decision that is contingent upon FDA and CDC approval. 


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