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Can childhood cancer patients and their caregivers get the COVID-19 vaccine?
The answer: It depends.
Your child’s pediatric oncologist will let you know if and when your child should get the vaccine. COVID-19 vaccines are given in phases to make sure that people at higher risk can get the vaccine first. In many places, the COVID-19 vaccine is now available for people 16 and older.
No vaccine has been authorized yet for people younger than 16.
For family caregivers, the priority list for vaccinations varies by state. But family caregivers of cancer patients are usually in higher priority groups. Check with your child’s treatment center or your state health department for more information.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have recommended a pause in the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the United States out of an abundance of caution, effective Tuesday, April 13. The CDC and FDA are reviewing data involving six reported U.S. cases of a very rare and severe type of blood clot called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis. The six reported cases are out of over 6.8 million doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine given in the U.S. to date. People who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine within the past 3 weeks who develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath should contact their health care provider. For more information, visit the CDC and FDA joint statement. This safety pause is only for the J & J vaccine and not for the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines.
When it’s time, 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 or Moderna vaccine or 2 weeks after they have received 1 dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Yes. CDC recommendations do not apply to health care settings, such as hospitals and clinics. They apply to the general public in non-health care settings.
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.
Find more information about CDC recommendations for fully vaccinated people in non-health care settings.
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.
Three types of COVID-19 vaccines are now authorized for use in the United States:
Find more information on COVID-19 vaccines from the CDC.
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, have occurred after the COVID-19 vaccine. However, these events are rare. 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.
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: wear a mask, keep a physical distance, wash your hands, and monitor for symptoms.
Reviewed: March 2021