Cancer patients with compromised immune systems due to treatments are anxious about COVID-19’s spread and severity. New research from Yale University and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte underscores the need for personalized guidance on administering protective booster shots to these vulnerable individuals. The study indicates that a one-size-fits-all approach may not be sufficient, as the requirement for boosters hinges on the specific cancer treatment.
The findings not only impact cancer patients but also extend to non-cancer patients facing different illnesses. Alex Dornburg, co-leader of the study and an assistant professor at UNC Charlotte, noted that “Fears of severe COVID-19 are not restricted to cancer patients. We hope to develop similar analyses that provide guidance to protect other patients who are especially vulnerable.”
While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests immunocompromised patients receive COVID-19 booster shots “as needed,” the research delves into the unique needs of cancer patients. The study reveals that increased booster shots offer benefits comparable to those seen in patients without cancer.
Individuals not receiving boosters face an estimated 1 in 3 risk of infection within two years. Conversely, patients receiving boosters every six months experience a reduced risk of 1 in 20.
However, certain cancer therapies directly target immune cells, potentially leading to immune suppression. Such patients may become more susceptible to severe COVID-19 infections. Those undergoing these therapies need more frequent booster shots. Administering annual boosters would leave a third of these patients vulnerable within two years. Yet, increasing booster frequency to every three months could halve the risk.
The study underscores the individual nature of immune responses and underscores the importance of healthcare professionals considering individual circumstances when advising on booster schedules. The research incorporated data from various COVID-19 studies and examinations of other coronaviruses to reach its conclusions.