Questions remain about whether cancer patients should get vaccine

There are questions about whether the COVID-19 vaccine is safe for cancer survivors and patients with compromised immune systems.

Vaccine trials are usually limited to the healthiest people, but very little is known about what effect the vaccine could have on patients with some chronic diseases.

A Woodinville cancer survivor says the coronavirus is forcing her to make that tough decision.

She is living with breast cancer and her husband is a health care worker.

So the question is who should and who should not take the COVID-19 vaccine?

For Liza Yore, a metastatic breast cancer survivor, the coronavirus has nearly upended her family’s life. After all, she lives with one of the countless frontline health workers providing care directly to COVID-19 patients, her husband.

“Well, we have different places to sleep,” Yore said, “is the way we really have been doing it. We make sure he changes his clothes and he takes his shower before he has any interaction with the family.”

She is a teacher, too, forced to stay away from her students.

“And I miss seeing them in person and they miss seeing us in person,” she said.

So there are questions about whether the COVID-19 vaccines could pose challenges for Yore, other cancer patients and anyone with a compromised immune system.

“That’s a great and really important question that we can’t give a definitive answer for,” said Dr. Josh Hill, an infectious disease specialist at  Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Hill says that’s because cancer patients were largely excluded from vaccine trials.

“So cancer patients should talk to their doctor about getting this vaccine,” said Dr. Hill. “But it really depends on the context.

Yore, an ambassador and volunteer fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, says she will take the vaccine as soon as it is offered.

“Anything I can do to help my community get back to schools, get the students back in schools, I am more than willing to do,” Yore said. “The benefits far outweigh the risks.”

Dr. Hill says patients who are receiving chemotherapy or whose immune systems are suppressed probably shouldn’t get the vaccine, just yet.

But it is something they should definitely discuss with their health care provider because each situation is different.