COVID-19 is a threat to the health of everyone, but especially people with cancer. Studies have shown that people with cancer have higher risk than the general population of being hospitalized, of developing a critical illness or severe complications, and of dying from COVID-19.
Flu season is also now upon us. People with cancer, especially those 65 or older, or those who have a history of cancer are at higher risk for developing serious complications from influenza.
“People with active cancer or a history of cancer, as well as their care partners and anyone who comes in contact with cancer patients are strongly encouraged to receive COVID-19 and flu vaccinations,” says Dartmouth's and Dartmouth-Hitchcock's Norris Cotton Cancer Center (NCCC) medical oncologist, Gary N. Schwartz, MD. COVID-19 booster shots are also approved for anyone of eligible age, and are encouraged six months after the second dose.
The COVID-19 vaccines, currently approved for anyone age 5 and older, are safe for people with cancer and can help protect them against serious illness and death. Because the virus can still spread after vaccination, it is important for people with cancer to reduce their risk of exposure to the virus by continuing to wear a mask, wash their hands and social distance.
Flu vaccines are approved for use in people with cancer and other health conditions. “The flu shot has a long, established safety record in people with cancer,” says Schwartz.
It is also important for people who live with, care for, or come in contact with cancer patients to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and seasonal flu. Vaccination greatly reduces the risk of getting the cancer patient sick.
The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide many resources to help people with cancer understand and navigate COVID-19 and flu.
Please also visit the NCCC COVID-19 vaccine patient and care partner FAQ for information about vaccine safety, effectiveness and availability for people with cancer.
For information about the flu vaccine and how you can schedule one and other flu vaccine resources, please visit the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Flu Vaccination Clinic page.
About Norris Cotton Cancer Center
Norris Cotton Cancer Center, located on the campus of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC) in Lebanon, NH, combines advanced cancer research at Dartmouth College’s Geisel School of Medicine in Hanover, NH with the highest level of high-quality, innovative, personalized, and compassionate patient-centered cancer care at DHMC, as well as at regional, multi-disciplinary locations and partner hospitals throughout NH and VT. NCCC is one of only 52 centers nationwide to earn the National Cancer Institute’s prestigious “Comprehensive Cancer Center” designation, the result of an outstanding collaboration between DHMC, New Hampshire’s only academic medical center, and Dartmouth College. Now entering its fifth decade, NCCC remains committed to excellence, outreach and education, and strives to prevent and cure cancer, enhance survivorship and to promote cancer health equity through its pioneering interdisciplinary research. Each year the NCCC schedules 61,000 appointments seeing nearly 4,000 newly diagnosed patients, and currently offers its patients more than 100 active clinical trials.