A Never-Ending Lockdown
- Lady Nicola Mendelsohn, a top Facebook executive and blood cancer warrior, is concerned that her COVID-19 lockdown may never really end after realizing her COVID-19 vaccine was ineffective.
- Mendelsohn was diagnosed with a rare type of blood cancer called follicular lymphoma in 2016. She knew the vaccine might not work for her because of her weakened immune system as a person with blood cancer.
- Among 100,000 women and men, only 2.7 new cases of follicular lymphoma occur every year, and the five-year survival rate is 89 percent.
The 49-year-old has been battling a rare form of blood cancer, follicular lymphoma, since 2016. In an op-ed for the Evening Standard, Mendelsohn shared a tragic realization she’s recently had to accept: The COVID-19 vaccine is ineffective for her. She already knew the vaccine might not work for people with blood cancer because of their weakened immune system, but receiving the negative results of her antibody test after her second dose of the vaccine was still “a blow.”Read More
It is unclear, at the moment, whether the vaccine will be ineffective for all blood cancer patients. We also don’t know if people with other types of cancer will have trouble creating the proper antibodies after receiving a vaccine. With this information at hand, Mendelsohn made sure her op-ed focused less on the individual impact of her recent realization and more on the global implications of her experience.
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“Too many people with blood cancer aren’t aware they may not be protected – the Government needs to urgently prioritise telling them this and needs to offer support for those people who want to continue minimising social contact,” Mendelsohn wrote. “It’s wrong, for example, that people with blood cancer who can’t work from home are having to choose between their finances and their health. The stark fact is that right now the question of whether the vaccines work for people with blood cancer is a lottery. Some of us will be protected, some of us won’t. But no one knows which ones. We need answers as quickly as possible about which people they are most likely to work for. ”
At the end of her op-ed, she announced that “Blood Cancer UK is leading a group of charities to fund vaccine efficacy research. She is disappointed by the governmental “failure” in supporting efforts to provide vulnerable people with blood cancer necessary vaccine information, but she is still hopeful for herself and others.
“I’ll go back to ‘positive Nicola’ in thinking that actually these were the first iterations of the vaccines,” Mendelsohn said. “And I hope that governments and the amazing charities… keep working to find some other solutions.”
Understanding Follicular Lymphoma
Mendelsohn’s type of blood cancer, follicular lymphoma, is an extremely rare, slow-growing type of B-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, according to the National Cancer Institute. Among 100,000 women and men, only 2.7 new cases of follicular lymphoma occur every year, and the five-year survival rate is 89 percent. However, due to the lack of research surrounding long-term treatment options for this disease, the cancer has been referred to as “incurable.”
Since her 2016 diagnosis, Mendelsohn has not only made her cancer battle public, but she has also pushed for more research surrounding this disease by launching the Follicular Lymphoma Foundation (FLF). The FLF exists to fund more research, give patients better treatment options and help those battling the disease get much-needed support.
Blood Cancer and the COVID-19 Vaccine
It’s particularly important to continue protecting yourself, even after receiving the vaccine, if you have blood cancer. Like Mendelsohn states, research indicates the COVID-19 vaccine doesn’t provide the same benefits for some cancer patients. This includes people with cancer that affects the blood, bone marrow or lymph nodes – particularly those with chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
“Some patients with blood cancers, specifically CLL, were less likely to develop antibodies to the COVID spike protein. And perhaps that means that those patients may be less protected by the vaccine,” explains Dr. Thomas Martin, a hematologist-oncologist at the University of California San Francisco. “This is not news that is unexpected news at this point in time. What we anticipated is that patients with blood cancers, especially those getting therapy, would have a lower ability to produce antibodies or to respond to the vaccine compared to normal patients.”
Because of these findings, Dr. Martin recommends blood cancer patients follow these precautions after getting the vaccine:
- Vaccinated patients undergoing therapy should still avoid large crowds
- Masks and social distancing are also still needed when in public
- Double mask during plane travel and avoid flights longer than six hours
- Vaccinated patients receiving blood cancer therapy should continue to avoid restaurants or socializing with a lot of people