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Which Cancer Patients Need a COVID-19 Booster Shot Most?

NCCN guidance says several groups should be considered eligible immediately for a third dose of either of the mRNA vaccines

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TUESDAY, Sept. 7, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- An alliance of leading U.S. cancer centers has updated guidance about COVID-19 vaccine boosters for cancer patients and the people around them.

The guidance, from the National Comprehensive Cancer Network Vaccination Advisory Committee, says several groups should be considered eligible immediately for a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna mRNA COVID-19 vaccine: patients with either new or recurring solid tumors receiving treatment within a year of their initial vaccine dose, regardless of their type of cancer therapy; patients with active blood cancers whether or not they are now receiving treatment; any cancer patient who received a stem cell transplant (SCT) or engineered cellular therapy, especially within the past two years; recipients of allogeneic SCT on immunosuppressive therapy or with a history of graft-versus-host disease regardless of when they got their transplant; and any cancer patients who also have an additional immunosuppressive condition -- such as HIV -- or are receiving immune-suppressing treatment unrelated to their cancer therapy.

The updated guidance is based on the latest information from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It highlights CDC recommendations for people to wait at least four weeks between second and third doses. Patients who develop COVID-19 despite having two doses should wait for their third dose until they have confirmed they are no longer infected. People who live with immunocompromised people should also get a third dose once it is available to them, the committee advised.

The advisory said it is best for that third dose to be the same type of vaccine as the first two doses, but a different mRNA vaccine is also acceptable. In other words, someone who had the Pfizer vaccine could get a Moderna booster, and vice versa. The recommendation did not address the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

If possible, immunocompromised people should try to receive their third dose in a health care setting instead of a pharmacy or public vaccination clinic to limit their risk for exposure to the general population.

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