Covid-19 updates

Covid-19 advice for sarcoma patients


If you have any questions relating to Covid-19, the Sarcoma UK Support Line is here to help:

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Information about the third COVID-19 vaccine dose - updated 3rd September 2021

Who will get a third vaccine dose?

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has recommended a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine for everyone who was immunosuppressed when they received their first two doses. This means that if you were receiving, or had received, immunosuppressive chemotherapy or immunotherapy in the six months before your first two doses, you should be eligible for a third dose of the vaccine.  

Why is this being called a third dose and not a booster?

The JCVI are calling this a third dose as they are recommending it be given to prevent COVID-19 in people who are unlikely to have responded as well to their first two doses of the vaccine, compared to those who aren’t immunosuppressed. A booster on the other hand is given to everyone in certain categories regardless of their immune response, to ensure that their protection does not decrease over time. We've been told that if a separate booster programme were to be rolled out, people who have received a third dose would be entitled to a booster dose as well.

Which vaccine will I receive?

Those aged 18 and over will most likely be given the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. But the JCVI have said that if you received the AstraZeneca vaccine for your first two doses, you may receive that again for your third dose. For those aged 12 to 17, the Pfizer vaccine is preferred.

Is it safe to mix the vaccines?

Yes. We know that most people in the immunosuppressed category would have had the AstraZeneca vaccine previously and will now likely receive the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine as the third dose. It may even be more effective to mix two types of vaccine. A recent study carried out by the University of Oxford found that giving the AstraZeneca vaccine followed by the Pfizer vaccine gave a better immune response than two AstraZeneca vaccines, although this wasn’t in people who were immunosuppressed.

How will I get the vaccine?

 If you are eligible for the vaccine, you should receive a letter from your GP outlining this. This letter is important, and you should use it to prove your eligibility for a third dose at your vaccination centre. If you are receiving sarcoma treatment, your clinical team might help decide the most  appropriate time for you to receive a third dose. Your third vaccine must be at least 8 weeks after your second dose.

The JCVI issues guidance for the whole of the UK so this means they’ve recommended immunosuppressed people in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are given a third dose. However, we are currently unsure of how this will be rolled out outside of England.

We’ve been told it may take up to 10 days for you to receive a letter with more information about this. If you haven’t received this letter and believe you should have, please contact your GP in the first instance.

COVID-19 Government Advice

Although restrictions have been lifted for most of the UK, there are a number of measures the Government is still advising to protect yourself and others. The Government has a wide range of information to help people at this time, including on employment, financial support, and childcare: gov.uk/coronavirus

People who are clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV)

People with certain cancers and those who have had or are having certain treatments are at risk of severe illness if they catch coronavirus. This includes people with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy, immunotherapy or other targeted cancer treatments. You should have received a letter from the NHS or your GP telling you if you are CEV.

The Government has updated their advice for those who are CEV. Those who are CEV may wish to take the following actions:  

Consider the risks of close contact with others:

  • in crowded spaces, where there are more people who might be infectious
  • in enclosed indoor spaces where there is limited fresh air
  • when COVID-19 disease levels are high in the general community

Take steps to reduce the risk of catching or spreading COVID-19. For example, you could:

  • consider whether you and those you are meeting have been vaccinated
  • meet outside if possible, or ensure the space is well-ventilated if you meet inside
  • wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face
  • consider continuing to practice social distancing if that feels right for you and your friends
  • ask friends and family to wear face coverings or to take a lateral flow test before visiting you

Specific advice, depending on where you live, for those who are clinically vulnerable or immunosuppressed can be found below:

Vaccinations

Vaccines are the best way to protect people from coronavirus and will save thousands of lives and reduce hospitalisations. All those aged over 16 have now been offered at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine.

As of 3rd September 2021, children aged 12 to 15 may also be eligible to get vaccinated against COVID-19 if either,

  • they have a condition which puts them at high risk,
  • they live with someone who is more likely to develop infections, such as those with cancer or on immunosuppressive treatment including chemotherapy.

If you are having chemotherapy, talk to your treatment team to see if your treatment fits into this area. If it does, you or your family member should get in contact with your/their GP. Find out more about COVID-19 vaccines here.

Cancer services during recovery from COVID-19

What will happen to my cancer treatment?

The NHS is now aiming to return cancer services to how they were before the pandemic. This means that cancer diagnosis, treatment and care are continuing. If you need to access care or treatment for suspected or diagnosed cancer, arrangements have been put in place to keep you safe from COVID-19:

  • COVID protected hubs have been set up for cancer treatment and surgery across the country. Your treatment may move to a different hospital as these hubs are set up.  You will remain under the care of your treating hospital and clinical specialist team and should contact them with any questions about your treatment and care.
  • There may be separate entrances for COVID and non-COVID patients. All patients admitted to hospital as an emergency will be tested for COVID.
  • Most hospitals have started to use telephone consultations as a way of helping people to avoid long waits in clinics and for treatment. You may be called to arrange your treatments in this way, and planned treatments may need to be moved to help with running a smooth service. 
  • Patients going into hospital for surgery or another elective procedure will be asked to isolate for 14 days and be offered a COVID test wherever possible.
  • Some patients may have their chemotherapy at home or have fewer radiotherapy appointments, to reduce visits to hospital while continuing with their treatment.   
  • For some people, it may be safer to delay surgery and your doctor may suggest a different treatment in the meantime. If a patient is not sure if they should come into the hospital, they should talk to their clinical team.

Please speak to your clinical team who will be able to talk with you about your treatment and appointments and answer any questions you have. All patients can support NHS staff by being aware of any symptoms they or their family may have, and by following the advice of the clinical teams working with them.

I am worried that I have symptoms of cancer. Should I still go to my GP?
Yes. If you have a worrying symptom, and you think it might be cancer, please do contact your GP surgery directly. GP surgeries are offering online consultations and/or remote triage so that people do not have to attend in person if they don’t have to. You can find a full list of the symptoms to look out for on the Be Clear on Cancer website.

I have just been referred by my GP with suspected cancer. Should I attend my diagnostic appointment? 
If you have been asked to go to hospital for further investigation or for treatment if you are diagnosed with cancer, it is important that you attend. If you have been asked to attend hospital, the only reason you should not go is if you have any symptoms of coronavirus.  If you do, you should tell the hospital, cancel your appointment and self-isolate. The clinical team will talk to you about when you your next appointment can happen. You may also be asked to self-isolate for seven days before any diagnostic procedures, even if you do not have coronavirus symptoms.

Most people who go to their GP with symptoms do not have cancer. However, if you do have cancer, earlier diagnosis can mean more effective treatment and improved chances of survival.

Do I need to do anything differently as someone who is being treated/in remission from cancer/living with chronic cancer?
The Government has paused shielding advice for those who are clinically extremely vulnerable in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. However, you may wish to continue to take precautions to keep yourself safe. More information can be found here.

If you are affected and have a hospital or another medical appointment during this time, talk to your clinical team to make sure you carry on getting the care you need and to find out which of these you still need to attend.

I am on chemotherapy. If I experience sweats/cough/shivering should I call NHS 111 or the chemotherapy care line?
You should call the chemotherapy care line.  If this is not available in your area, talk to your clinical team about who you should call.

If I need to self-isolate for more than seven days, what will happen in relation to treatment that has to be done weekly?
Your clinical team are best placed to talk with you about the effect on your treatment and appointments. 

What is happening to clinical trials?

Many trials that were paused during COVID-19 have now reopened. You should contact your clinical team with questions about your individual treatment including any trials you are part of.

Does having had cancer treatment in the past, for example, stem cell transplants, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, even if I am now in remission, increase my risk if I get the virus? 
This depends on the type of cancer and the treatment you have had. Most people make a full recovery after cancer treatment and their immune system either recovers fully or is not affected.

One of my family members has cancer. How can I protect them?
Please refer to the wider Government advice to protect yourselves and family/friends: