Covid 19 vaccine bottles

COVID-19 Vaccines & Cancer

Cancer patients are at high risk for serious complications from COVID-19 infection. As a result, MUSC Hollings Cancer Center encourages cancer patients to receive the vaccine as it becomes available to them.

We understand these are confusing times and that information changes often. Below, we’ve addressed common questions about the COVID-19 vaccine as it relates to cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers.

If you have specific questions or concerns about the vaccine as it relates to your cancer treatment, please speak with a member of your care team to determine the best timing for you to receive the vaccine.

On Jan. 22, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network issued a guidance recommending that all people currently in active cancer treatment get the COVID-19 vaccine, with some advice to consider regarding immunosuppression and timing. The guidance also stated that cancer patients should be prioritized for vaccination. See the full guidelines for more information.

Because of the risk of serious complications from COVID-19 infection, we encourage all cancer patients — including those in active treatment for their cancer — to receive the vaccine once they have been notified that they are eligible. However, patients who have recently undergone a transplant or cellular therapy should wait at least three months to receive the vaccine to help maximize its efficacy.

While data is limited on the COVID-19 vaccine’s efficacy in cancer patients, there is currently no evidence to suggest that the vaccine is any less safe in patients who are undergoing cancer treatment than it is in the general public. There is also no data to indicate that the vaccine interferes with cancer treatment.

As with most vaccines, patients may experience mild side effects such as tiredness, discomfort at the injection site, and fever. There is also a risk of allergic reaction to ingredients used in the vaccine, but these reactions are very rare.

Increasing evidence suggests that patients with cancer are at increased risk of severe illness and death if they are infected with the virus. This is often attributed to a weakened immune status due to their cancer(s) or treatment, making them vulnerable to infection.

Data published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in December 2020 showed that cancer patients who were diagnosed with COVID-19 were nearly twice as likely to require hospitalization when compared with people without cancer.

Because of the increased risk of infection and worse outcomes, it is important for cancer patients to be vaccinated as early as possible to increase their level of protection from the virus.

Eligibility criteria for who can receive the vaccine are determined by the state based on federal guidelines. Currently, any South Carolina residents age 12 and older, including cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers, can receive the vaccine at MUSC Health. Appointments can be made online by visiting muschealth.org/vaccine-scheduling.

Timing can change based on how quickly vaccines are produced and distributed. For the most up-to-date information on eligibility criteria and timing, please visit the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control’s COVID-19 vaccine information website.

Even after receiving both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, you will still need to wear a mask, practice physical distancing, avoid crowds, and use good hand hygiene. Please visit the CDC's COVID-19 website for more guidance about how to prevent getting sick.

For more information about the vaccine, including how it works, what to expect during and after your appointments, and the benefits and potential risks, please refer to MUSC Health’s COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) webpage. For specific questions related to how the vaccine could affect your medical conditions and/or treatment, please speak with a member of your care team.

Scheduling a COVID-19 vaccine appointment

All South Carolina residents age 12 and older are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. You can make an appointment online by visiting muschealth.org/vaccine-scheduling.

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine requires TWO doses given 19-23 days apart and the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine requires TWO doses given 28 days apart. Two separate appointments are required, one for each vaccine dose. If you are unable to schedule online, please call the Call Center at 843-876-7227.

Please note that COVID-19 vaccines are administered by MUSC Health and are not available at Hollings or through your oncologist.

Collage of vaccine shot being given into arm, Covid virus, and man wearing mask with text that says Covid 19 Vaccination & Cancer Patients, a panel discussion for cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers

COVID Vaccine & Cancer Panel

In case you missed it, you can watch our panel discussion and Q&A session about the COVID-19 vaccine as it relates to cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers.

Watch the panel
face masks, protective gloves and bottles of hand sanitizer

What we’re doing to keep you safe

At Hollings and MUSC Health, the health and safety of our patients, visitors, and staff will always be our first priority. Current safety precautions include:

  • Screening all patients who enter our facilities.
  • Registration from your car, where available.
  • Waiting rooms and facilities set up to promote physical distancing.
  • Offering telemedicine visits in place of in-person visits for eligible appointments.
  • Disinfecting surfaces between patient visits.
  • Requiring all patients and caregivers to wear masks.
  • Limiting the number of visitors who can accompany patients to appointments.
young man wearing a mask holds a cell phone

Tips for staying safe at home

Protection from COVID-19 infection begins at home. To help protect yourself and your loved ones, we encourage you to:

  • Continue to wear a mask, even after you have been vaccinated.
  • Continue to social distance, especially from others who have not yet been vaccinated.
  • Minimize trips out of the home for anyone in the household.
  • Regularly disinfect common areas in the home and practice hand hygiene.
  • Avoid traveling when possible.
  • Monitor your health daily for new concerns or symptoms.

COVID-19 and cancer research

Researchers at Hollings are participating in several studies to learn more about COVID-19 as it relates to cancer.

Vaccine Priority

On Feb. 17, MUSC Hollings Cancer Center joined 130 scientific organizations and cancer centers across the country in sending a letter to the Biden administration highlighting the importance of prioritizing cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers when administering COVID-19 vaccines.

COVID-19 information at MUSC Health

For the latest information on COVID-19 vaccines, testing, screening, safety, and restrictions at MUSC Health, visit MUSC Health’s Coronavirus Information website.