Cancer & Covid-19
- A South Carolina college student, who is also a cancer patient, says she is unable to finish her class because of Covid-19 restrictions, specifically surrounding the vaccine.
- Andrea Marsh, 29, who was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer, says her oncologist told her not to get the Covid vaccine.
- SurvivorNet experts tell us that the best Covid vaccine for cancer patients is the “first one available to you,” however, they also say that cancer patients should get the vaccine when their oncologist has deemed it reasonable.
“I’m a straight A student. Why can I not pass these classes and be put out there on the front line?” Andrea Marsh, 29, tells WSOC-TV Channel 9 in Charlotte, North Carolina.Read More
SurvivorNet experts tell us that the best Covid vaccine for cancer patients is the “first one available to you,” however, they also say that cancer patients should get the vaccine when their oncologist has deemed it reasonable. In Marsh’s case, her oncologist is advising against her getting the shot.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention states that immunocompromised people (i.e. cancer patients) are especially vulnerable to the virus. “Everyone, including immunocompromised people, should receive a COVID-19 vaccine primary series if they are 5 years and older as soon as possible,” the CDC reports.
However, as always, it is important to go over your medical history with your doctor before taking any medication or vaccine, including the Covid-19 vaccine.
Restrictions for the Unvaccinated
Marsh is a nursing student at York Technical College, located in Rock Hill, South Carolina. The school, like most in the United States, requires that its students in certain health care programs be vaccinated against Covid-19.
But Marsh says that her oncologist has given her a medical exemption and advised her not to get the vaccine. She further explains that she was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer, adding, “It has been a real struggle for me.”
“I have been on oral chemo since I came off of (intravenous) chemo and I’ve had a lot of check ups since then, but they told me that my cancer count was elevating,” Marsh says.
She is further claiming that her school is refusing to honor her medical exemption, which is making her unable to finish her needed classes.
“I was told that they would like for us to have the vaccine, but it was not required. I could not get it at the time because my doctor said no,” she says, adding that despite it, she was advised in December that she would need to get vaccinated.
“Students in certain allied health and nursing programs rotate through third-party clinical sites to successfully complete the required clinical training component for these programs, in keeping with accreditation training standards. York Tech does not have authority over the policies and procedures of third-party healthcare providers,” a spokesperson for York Tech said in a statement to Channel 9.
The hospital (name of the hospital is unknown) where Marsh would conduct her clinical work for school has told the television station that they would, unlike the school, honor her medical exemption. However, federal Covid-19 guidelines and restrictions for nursing homes prohibit Marsh from working there without a vaccine.
Cancer & Covid-19
Immunocompromised people, such as those who have or have had cancer, are more susceptible to Covid-19. As a cancer patient or survivor, how can you protect yourself from this virus that is still mutating and infecting thousands every day?
Here is the most important thing: If you have not already, get your Covid-19 shot. But as previously mentioned, cancer patients should get the vaccine when their oncologist has deemed it appropriate.
If you have received your Covid shot, make sure you get your booster shot. For those who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, the booster should be given five months after the second shot. For people who got the Johnson & Johnson shot, the booster should be administered two months after the single-dose vaccine.
According to Dr. Nina Shah, a hematologist at the University of California San Francisco, it is critical that cancer patients going through active treatment get this booster.
“It is very important (to get your booster shot), since we know some cancer patients do not mount a sufficient immune response after the first series of shots,” Dr. Shah tells SurvivorNet.
However, most people who have gotten the vaccine have already reached the five-month mark (or the two-month mark for those who got the J&J shot) and have received their booster shot. And the conversation has shifted to getting additional booster shots to continue to mount an immune defense against Covid.
If you have been vaccinated, already received your booster and feel you need another booster shot, that decision should be made in collaboration with your oncologist.