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Can childhood cancer patients and their caregivers get the COVID-19 vaccine?
The answer: Yes, COVID-19 vaccines are safe and recommended for all people aged 12 years of age or older, especially for those with underlying medical problems such as cancer, and their household contacts. Everyone 12 years old and older is now eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccination.
Because patients with cancer may not respond as well to the vaccine, caregivers of persons with weakened immune systems should get a COVID-19 vaccine to protect them.
No vaccine has been authorized yet for people younger than 12.
You can talk with your child’s pediatric oncologist if you have questions.
Patients and caregivers may be able to get the vaccine at their treatment center. If not, there are likely several locations in their community. The patient’s care team can provide guidance. The national VaccineFinder website might be a good resource to find vaccine locations in your area.
People are considered fully vaccinated 2 weeks or more after they have received the second dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine or 2 weeks after they have received 1 dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Childhood and adolescent cancer patients are considered high risk. They must not receive visits from their fully vaccinated grandparents (or others) without using a mask and keeping a physical distance of 6 feet or more.
A COVID-19 vaccine works to activate the immune system to protect against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. You get the vaccine as an injection (shot) in the upper arm.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is approved by the FDA for people ages 16 and older. It is authorized for use in people ages 12-15.
Two COVID-19 vaccines are authorized for use in the United States:
The third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine helps those with vulnerable immune systems who may not have built up enough immunity from the first two doses of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna.
The booster shot is for those who are at high-risk of severe COVID-19, or those whose daily job puts them at high risk of serious complications of COVID-19 including severe COVID-19, such as frontline workers, who may have experienced a decrease in immunity over time.
It is currently only available for those who had the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
A COVID-19 vaccine uses the body’s immune system to fight the coronavirus. The immune system is a network of special cells, tissues, and organs that protect the body from germs. A vaccine helps your body develop immune responses to fight off infection without having to get sick first. When you get an infection, the immune system “remembers” that specific germ and is ready to defend against it the next time.
A vaccine must meet strict safety standards before it is available for use. After a vaccine is authorized, scientists will continue to study the COVID-19 vaccines to make sure that they are as safe and effective as possible.
Some people may have mild side effects after a COVID-19 vaccine. These are temporary symptoms that occur as your body begins making antibodies. They are part of a normal immune response.
Possible side effects include:
Some people may have more noticeable symptoms after the second vaccine dose. Side effects from the vaccine should go away within a couple of days. Most people can continue their daily activities. Ibuprofen (Advil®) or acetaminophen (Tylenol®) may help relieve some of the symptoms.
Less common side effects, including severe allergic reactions, myocarditis, and pericarditis have occurred after the COVID-19 vaccine. It’s important to remember that these events are very rare.
It’s also important to remember that myocarditis is more common after a COVID-19 infection than a vaccine. Here’s a look at what current research shows:
Tell your vaccine provider if you have a history of allergic reactions or have an allergy to any vaccine ingredient.
Find information on vaccine ingredients from the CDC.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended that use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 Vaccine resume in the United States on April 23, 2021. However, women younger than 50 years old should be aware of the rare risk of blood clots with low platelets after vaccination, and that other COVID-19 vaccines are available where this risk has not been seen. If you received a Johnson & Johnson vaccine, here is what you need to know.
Based on the available research, COVID-19 vaccines work extremely well to protect against illness. The vaccines appear to be 90-95% effective for the time studied. It is very important to get the full course of the vaccine (usually 2 doses) for the best protection. Because COVID-19 vaccines are new, we don’t know how long the protection lasts. Researchers are continuing to study long-term immunity in clinical trials.
Even after you get a COVID-19 vaccine, it is important to take steps to protect yourself and others:
Reviewed: August 2021