There are over 3.8 million breast cancer survivors in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). This statistic takes into account individuals who have completed their treatment and those still being treated.

Cancer survivors need to stay healthy during or after treatment. The COVID-19 vaccine is one of the recommended vaccines.

The vaccine can reduce your risk of getting sick. It can prevent serious illness, hospitalization, or death due to the infection.

Breast cancer survivors need to know more about the COVID-19 vaccines.

Receiving some types of cancer treatment can make you more vulnerable to contracting infections like COVID-19. This is because they can affect the way that the immune system works, potentially weakening it.

Breast cancer treatments may increase your risk of infections.

According to the ACS, The treatment is called Chemo. is the most common cause of a weakened immune system in those receiving treatment for cancer.

In fact, a 2016 study in breast cancer survivors found that certain infection-fighting cells remained significantly low 9 months after The treatment is called Chemo..

Are breast cancer survivors more vulnerable to COVID-19?

People with cancer or with moderately to severely weakened immune systems are some of the groups at a higher risk of severe illness or death due to COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

A 2021 study compared COVID-19 outcomes in people who had been diagnosed with cancer and those who had not. Having a cancer diagnosis was associated with a higher risk of hospitalization and death. This effect was strongest for people with active cancer.

This fact makes it important for cancer survivors to be protected from vaccine.

All of the COVID-19 vaccines that are used in the United States are safe and effective, including for breast cancer survivors.

If you have a weakened immune system, you may have heard that you cannot receive some vaccines. The COVID-19 vaccine is not one of these vaccines.

It’s not typically recommended for people with a weakened immune system to get vaccines that contain a live, weakened form of a virus. Some examples include the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine and the chickenpox vaccine.

of the three COVID-19 vaccines in use in the United States are live vaccines. The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are mRNA vaccines while the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine uses an adenoviral vector that cannot replicate.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine recommended for breast cancer survivors?

The CDC recommends COVID-19 vaccines for everyone ages 5 and up. They note that this is particularly important for people at an increased risk of serious illness, including those with cancer or a weakened immune system.

Additionally, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) states that people with cancer, including those undergoing treatment and cancer survivors, be offered the COVID-19 vaccine as long as there are no contraindications. A contraindication is a symptom or medical condition that indicates a person should not receive a certain treatment or medical procedure.

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) also recommends that people with cancer get the COVID-19 vaccine. They note that people with cancer as well as some survivors can have a weakened immune system that puts them at risk of serious illness.

Everyone has their own situation that is different. If you have questions about the recommended vaccine schedule or the COVID-19 vaccines, you should talk to your doctor.

Should some people not get the COVID-19 vaccine?

There are some people who should not receive the COVID-19 vaccine. According to the CDC, this includes:

  • people who have had a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to a previous dose of a COVID-19 vaccine or to one of the ingredients in the vaccine
  • individuals who have a known allergy to one of the ingredients in a COVID-19 vaccine
  • those who experienced a blood clotting condition called thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) after a previous dose of an adenoviral vector vaccine (J&J vaccine only)

The CDC currently recommends that all people ages 5 and older receive a primary COVID-19 vaccine series.

COVID-19 vaccine recommendations for healthy adults

The primary vaccine series recommendations for healthy adults are listed.

For healthy adults Number of doses Time between first and second doses
Pfizer-BioNTech 2 doses 3 to 8 weeks
Moderna 2 doses 4 to 8 weeks
Johnson & Johnson 1 dose N/A

mRNA vaccines like those made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are preferred over the J&J vaccine. This is because a 2021 review found that mRNA vaccines were more effective and had a better safety profile than the J&J vaccine.

Initial studies on the mRNA vaccines found that they were highly effective at preventing COVID-19. However, this effectiveness has declined as new viral variants, such as the Omicron variant, have emerged.

Nevertheless, recent studies have found that both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccine still provide protection against contracting the Omicron variant. Additionally, they’re also still quite effective at preventing hospitalization.

COVID-19 vaccine recommendations for immunocompromised adults

As mentioned earlier, people that are currently having or have recently finished some cancer treatments like The treatment is called Chemo. often have a weakened immune system.

Individuals with a weakened immune system may produce a weaker response to the vaccine. Because of this, the CDC recommends that they receive an additional vaccine dose as a part of their primary vaccine series.

The primary vaccine recommendations for severely immunocompromised adults are:

Number of doses Time between first and second doses Time between second and third doses
Pfizer-BioNTech 3 doses 3 weeks 4 weeks
Moderna 3 doses 4 weeks 4 weeks
Johnson & Johnson 2 doses 4 weeks (mRNA vaccine) N/A

As above, mRNA vaccines are preferred over the J&J vaccine.

A 2021 study found that two doses of an mRNA vaccine gave lower protection against hospitalization in immunocompromised people than in healthy people. This supports the need for an extra vaccine dose and a booster in this group.

What else can I do to protect myself?

There are other things you can do to protect yourself from COVID-19, and you can get your vaccine.

  • Encourage those who live with you to get the vaccine.
  • wash your hands thoroughly and frequently
  • When you are out in public, wear a mask.
  • Avoid crowded areas.
  • When in public, practice physical distancing.
  • clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces around your home regularly

Protection from your primary vaccine series will gradually wane over time, regardless of your health status. Due to this, the CDC recommends COVID-19 vaccine boosters for everyone ages 12 and over.

Some people can get two boosters, while others can only get one. The current booster recommendations are as follows.

Booster shots Who is eligible? What vaccines are recommended? What’s the timeline?
First booster everyone ages 12 and older Pfizer-BioNTech Moderna Most people: at least 5 months after primary series
Immunocompromised: at least 3 months after primary series
Second booster • adults ages 50 and older
• moderately to severely immunocompromised people over age 12
• individuals who received two doses of the J&J vaccine
Pfizer-BioNTech Moderna at least 4 months after first booster

It is possible that you will experience side effects after getting your vaccine. Some people may not have any side effects.

According to the CDC, the most common side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine are:

These are normal side effects and show that your body is responding to the vaccine. They should leave on their own. You can also do things at home to help. These include:

  • You received your injection, and you are exercising or using the arm.
  • applying a cool, wet towel to the injection site
  • drinking lots of fluids
  • taking over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) to ease fever and aches and pains

anaphylaxis is rare, and serious side effects are rare. If your side effects last longer than a few days or if redness and pain around the injection site get worse after 24 hours, contact your doctor.

Side effects in immunocompromised people

A 2022 research review notes that there’s currently no evidence that shows that immunocompromised individuals are at an increased risk of side effects from COVID-19 vaccines.

A 2021 study of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in immunocompromised individuals found that the most frequently reported vaccine side effects were fatigue, fever, and There is pain in the muscles.. This is similar to common side effects in healthy people.

Specific vaccine side effects for breast cancer survivors

There are some vaccine side effects that are important for breast cancer survivors.

One is swollen lymph nodes in the armpit, which can happen on the side of your body where you got your injection. These may feel like breast lumps or can show up as an abnormal area on a mammogram.

As such, try to schedule a mammogram at least 1 month after your vaccine. However, if this isn’t possible, just let the person doing your mammogram know that you’ve been vaccinated and on which side you got the injection.

It’s also possible for lymphedema to worsen after vaccination, particularly if you had lymph nodes around your armpit removed as a part of your cancer treatment.

“The injection on the side that wasn’t impacted by breast cancer is a way to avoid this. If you have breast cancer, you should consult with your doctor about where to get your injection.”

Breast cancer survivors should be protected against COVID-19. This is important for those who are immune compromised and are at an increased risk of serious illness due to COVID-19.

If you have been a breast cancer survivor, you should talk to your doctor about getting the vaccine. They can answer any questions you may have and let you know which vaccine schedule to follow.