The National ComprehensiveCancer Network® (NCCN) has released new guidance1 on vaccinating people with cancer against COVID-19. The nonprofit alliance of leading cancer centers created an NCCN COVID-19 Vaccine Committee, which includes hematology and oncology experts with particular expertise in infectious diseases, vaccine development/delivery, medical ethics, and health information technology.
The committee’s recommendations state that all people currently in active cancer treatment should receive the vaccine, with some advice to consider regarding immunosuppression and timing. The full document can be found at NCCN.org/covid-19, along with other vital information about the impact of COVID-19 on cancer care.
Steve Pergam, MD, MPH
“Right now, there is an urgent need and limited data,” explained Co-Leader of the NCCN COVID-19 Vaccine Committee Steve Pergam, MD, MPH, Associate Professor, Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Infection Prevention Director at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. “The evidence we have shows that people receiving active cancer treatment are at greater risk for worse outcomes from COVID-19, particularly if they are older and have additional comorbidities, like immunosuppression.”
Lindsey Baden, MD
Sirisha Narayana, MD
“My philosophy is don’t waste a dose, and keep it simple,” said Committee Co-Leader Lindsey Baden, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Infectious Disease, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. “Too many caveats can lead to confusion. Of course, if strong new evidence comes out to support prioritizing certain groups over others, we can always adjust.”
“One of our primary goals is reducing morbidity and mortality,” said Sirisha Narayana, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Chair of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Ethics Committee, UCSF Health. “We also have to take social determinants of health into account and make special efforts for people in high-risk communities.”
Robert W. Carlson, MD
“The medical community is rising to one of the biggest challenges we have ever faced,” said Robert W. Carlson, MD, Chief Executive Officer, NCCN. “The COVID-19 vaccines exemplify the heights of scientific achievement. Now we have to distribute them quickly, equitably, safely, and efficiently, using clearly defined and transparent principles.”
1. NCCN: Preliminary recommendations of the NCCN COVID-19 vaccination advisory committee. Available at https://www.nccn.org/covid-19/pdf/COVID-19_Vaccination_Guidance_V1.0.pdf. Accessed January 22, 2021.