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How does the COVID-19 vaccine affect cancer patients and survivors?

vaccine
Posted at 10:54 PM, Feb 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-17 00:54:24-05

Scientists are working to find out if the COVID-19 vaccine provides enough protection for those with cancer.

At 49 years old, Nicole Marquez has metastatic breast cancer. Her treatments suppress her immune system, which makes her a perfect target for the virus’ deadly consequences.

Living with cancer during a global pandemic is taking its toll on Marquez. Hundreds of thousands of other fellow survivors across the state feel her pain as well.

“In the last year, I haven’t had any hope while I sit on my porch and watch everybody walking by and doing normal business as usual,” said Marquez through tears.

“The vaccine does provide us a level of protection, or at least I think it does,” said Marquez.

“This disease tends to be worse in cancer patients than it is in non-cancer patients and that’s well documented,” said Dr. Rogerio Lilembaum.

Dr. Lilembaum with MD Anderson Banner Health says that’s exactly why cancer patients should get the vaccine when it’s their turn. MRNA vaccines like Pfizer and Moderna already have a documented safety record in cancer patients.

“The MRNA vaccine technology was actually initially developed for cancer vaccine," said Dr. Lilembaum.

Technology that was once destined to battle cancer is now battling the COVID-19 virus. Questions still remain surrounding it’s protection for those with cancer.

Can they generate the same immune response as those with healthy immune systems? Scientists are testing antibody levels in patients who’ve received the vaccine already to find out.

“Even if it’s not as effective as it can be in a non-cancer patient, some protection is better than none,” said Dr. Lilembaum.

And that’s enough for Marquez who is now waiting to be called as part of vaccine group 1C. She is motivated by her mother, a fellow cancer survivor, who is now living with dementia.

She only has three questions left for state leaders: “When can I get it, how quick can I get it, and how do I sign up?”