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VERIFY: Will chemotherapy limit effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine?

Though there is mounting evidence that COVID-19 vaccines are safe for most people, some people with certain conditions still worry.
Credit: KING

SEATTLE — Even with mounting evidence COVID-19 vaccines are safe, people with some conditions still worry.

One viewer fighting breast cancer reached out to us, asking about the effect chemotherapy would have on the vaccine.

"My oncologist said that I could get the COVID vaccine, but that the chemo would kill the vaccine, which would defeat the purpose of getting the vaccine and deprive someone who could use it. Is it possible to ask a virologist or immunologist if this is true and I should wait until I'm done with chemo?"

To verify, we checked with the American Cancer Society and asked Dr. Alex Greninger a virologist at the University of Washington. Greninger strongly suggested patients meet with their physician and oncologist.

However, as far as the COVID-19 vaccines themselves go, Greninger said they know - from experience with other infectious diseases - that chemotherapy could reduce or eliminate that immunity from the vaccine. But there's still a chance of having at least partial immunity. 

That means, while chemotherapy might limit the vaccine's effectiveness, there is still a reason to get it. And because people fighting cancer are at high risk, they will not be depriving it from someone who needs it more.

"Because at least you'll have something that's still there, right?" said Greninger. "And that's helpful. And you can always come back and get a booster. The big message is - if you can get a vaccine, get a vaccine, even in these circumstances."

As far as questions about which vaccine is best for people fighting cancer, the American Cancer Society says no major medical organizations have recommended one over another for anyone.

So, people with cancer should consult their personal physician and oncologist. But, in general, anyone with cancer should still get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible.

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