Cancer patients are at risk for serious COVID-19 illness, but some are still afraid to get vaccinated against the virus, new research shows.
Study authors surveyed nearly 200 high-risk cancer patients at the Mays Cancer Center in San Antonio, Texas. Only 56% said they'd received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, compared to the community vaccination rate of 76%.
The three most common reasons patients gave for not getting vaccinated were: "My doctor has not told me to get the vaccine," or "I do not think it is safe for me because I have cancer," or "I'm afraid of the side effects."
Patients were given six options to select for declining the vaccination. Aside from the three top reasons, other options included, “I already had COVID, so I don't think I need the vaccine” and “I want the vaccine but have not been able to schedule an appointment.”
“We concluded that the reasons cancer patients declined the COVID-19 vaccination can all be addressed by improving patient/physician communication regarding the known safety of the COVID-19 vaccines,” said study lead author Dr. Kate Lathrop. She's a medical oncologist and breast cancer specialist at the cancer center and associate professor of medicine at University of Texas Health San Antonio.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has created many challenges and barriers to care for patients on active cancer treatments,” Lathrop noted in a UT Health news release.
The Mays Cancer Center -- home to UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson Cancer Center -- implemented a system to remind patients about COVID-19 vaccines.
The study found that before discussing it with their oncologist, 45% of high-risk cancer patients had not received at least one COVID-19 vaccine, but that fell to 20% after a reminder.
The patients were surveyed when they arrived at an outpatient infusion clinic between May and June 2021. The survey results are being presented this week at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium. Studies presented at meetings are usually considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
The American Cancer Society has more on COVID-19 vaccines.
SOURCE: University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, news release, Dec. 7, 2021