Cancer & COVID-19
What is coronavirus, or COVID-19??
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in people and many different species of animals. SARS-CoV-2 is a novel (new) coronavirus that causes a respiratory disease named coronavirus disease 2019, which is abbreviated COVID-19. As SARS-CoV-2 spreads, the virus can change, which results in new variants. Some variants may spread more easily than others or be more resistant to vaccines or treatments.
If I have cancer now or had it in the past, am I at higher risk of severe COVID-19?
People with cancer, people who are in active cancer treatment, older patients, and people with other serious chronic medical conditions, such as lung disease, diabetes, or heart disease, are at higher risk for the more severe form of COVID-19 that could lead to death. Studies have shown that people with active or progressing cancer may be at higher risk than those whose cancer is in remission.
If I have cancer now or had it in the past, should I get a COVID-19 vaccine?
Yes. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention recommends that everyone age 5 and older get a COVID-19 vaccine series. That includes most people with underlying medical conditions, including cancer.
To help protect people with cancer from COVID-19, it is important that their family members, loved ones, and caregivers get vaccinated. All of the COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective at preventing severe disease and death from all variants that have emerged so far. In areas where the virus is spreading quickly, wearing a mask in public indoor spaces and social distancing will also help protect vulnerable people and prevent the spread of the virus.
Is a COVID-19 booster shot different from an additional dose? Who should get a booster shot?
A booster shot is given when protection from primary vaccination is likely to have waned over time. CDC recommends a COVID-19 booster shot for everyone age 12 and older. If you are moderately or severely immunocompromised, CDC recommends you get a booster shot after your additional vaccine dose. Certain immunocompromised people and all adults over age 50 are eligible for a second booster shot.
If I'm at high risk for severe COVID-19, what are other ways that I can protect myself?
The most important way to protect yourself is to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Aside from vaccination, the most effective way to prevent COVID-19 is to avoid being exposed to the virus that causes it. To protect yourself and prevent the spread of COVID-19, take precautions
- Get a COVID-19 vaccination and booster shot.
- Wear a well-fitting mask that covers your nose and mouth.
- Stay 6 feet away from people who don't live with you.
- Avoid crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces.
- Some doctors advise that you make sure anyone you do have contact with has been vaccinated and/or tested negative for COVID-19.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water aren't available.
- Cover coughs and sneezes.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily.
- Monitor your health and be alert for symptoms of COVID-19.
Your family members, loved ones, and caregivers can help protect you and other people at high risk of serious COVID-19 by following these precautions, too.
If you are vaccinated but living or traveling in an area with high transmission rates of COVID-19, you should continue to wear a mask when indoors in public settings. If you are at high risk for COVID-19 illness or complications due to your cancer treatment or other medical condition, you should also continue to wear a mask in these settings. Follow guidance on travel restrictions issued by the CDC or the World Health Organization (WHO).
People who are at high risk of severe illness from SARS-CoV-2 infection may be eligible to receive Evusheld to prevent the development of COVID-19 even before they have become infected with the virus. This product has been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use and is not a substitute for COVID-19 vaccination. People age 12 and older are eligible to receive Evusheld only if they
- are not currently infected with SARS-CoV-2 and have not recently been exposed to someone who is infected
- are moderately to severely immunocompromised and may not mount a protective immune response to COVID-19 vaccines
- are unable to be fully vaccinated due to a history of severe adverse reaction to a COVID-19 vaccine or its components
What should I do if I have symptoms of an infection? What treatment should I get if I have COVID-19?
If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 or have symptoms of an infection, you should get a COVID-19 test. Testing sites are available through www.venturacountyrecovers.org If the test shows that you have COVID-19, isolate yourself from others and call your health care provider.
People with cancer who develop mild to moderate COVID-19 may be eligible to receive antiviral medications or monoclonal antibody treatments that prevent the illness from progressing to serious COVID-19. Contact your health care provider to obtain these medications.
Your cancer treatment may need to be paused or modified until you recover from COVID-19 infection. Please contact VCHOS when you are diagnosed with COVID to receive instructions about your treatment plan.
Will anything change with my cancer-related medical visits?
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the increased risk of exposure to the virus, most hospitals and clinics have changed their visitation policies. Masks and physical distancing are still required in health-care settings. Before heading to your medical appointment, check with us for our current visitor policy.
Your cancer care team may conduct some of your appointments by telemedicine. During a telemedicine appointment, you can stay at home and visit with your doctor or other health care team member through video conferencing using your phone or computer. Your doctor's office will give you instructions on how to have your visit this way. If you are interested in having a visit by telemedicine rather than in person, ask your doctor's office staff if this is possible.
Adapted from the NCI & ASCO for VCHOS
General COVID-19 information:
Coronavirus Cancer Patient Information
Coronavirus and COVID-19: What People With Cancer Need to Know
COVID-19 vaccine information:
Stay Up to Date with Your COVID-19 Vaccines
Ventura County Recovers Vaccine Information