Patient Care

What Cancer Patients Should Know About a Third COVID Vaccine Dose

Aug. 19, 2021

The CDC recently announced new recommendations encouraging those who are immunocompromised to get a third vaccine to help support their immunity to COVID-19. The announcement comes after new research showed those who are immunocompromised may not build up immunity to COVID-19 as strongly as those who are not immunocompromised.

Cancer patients make up a segment of those who may be considered immunocompromised. However, it’s important to know that not all cancer patients have a weakened immune system and need a third dose at this time. Please see the information below, and then contact your care team if you have questions or are unsure.

Read more about the criteria for eligibility for a third vaccine from UR Medicine.


Which cancer patients are eligible for a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine?

People who have moderate to severe immunosuppression qualify to receive an additional dose, usually because of an organ or stem cell transplant, HIV infection, steroid therapy or certain cancer treatments that impair the body’s ability to fight infections.

Those cancer patients who are considered immunocompromised include:

  • Patients being treated for solid tumors with chemotherapy
  • Some patients on immunotherapy — currently or within the last six months
  • Patients being treated for blood cancers currently or within the last six months
  • Patients who were within 12 months after treatment with B-cell depleting drugs (for example, rituximab or Rituxan®) at the time of their initial vaccination
  • Patients who have undergone a stem cell transplant or received CAR T therapy within the last two years


Which cancer patients are not eligible for a third dose at this time?

Patients with solid tumors are not considered immunocompromised if their cancer has been treated with hormone therapy, some non-immunosuppressive targeted therapy, surgery, radiation, or is under observation.

To ensure the best immune response to the third dose, it’s recommended that certain patients discuss the best timing of the third dose with their cancer care team. This includes individuals who have had recent treatment involving a stem cell transplant, CAR T-cell therapy or anti-CD20 monoclonal antibodies.


How do I get the third dose if I am eligible for it?

At this time, UR Medicine is working on opening third-dose clinics for patients. In the meantime, you can find vaccination sites by going to the Finger Lakes Vaccine Hub website. (To find a location near you, scroll to the bottom of the page and select the county where you live.) Patients may also opt to check in with their local pharmacies to ask whether they are offering COVID third doses for immunocompromised patients.


Do I need a doctor’s note to receive a third dose?

No. However, a patient attestation is used. Different vaccine centers or pharmacies manage this process differently; if you have questions about this process, contact the location administering your vaccine directly.