What cancer patients should know about getting the COVID-19 vaccine at MD Anderson
MD Anderson Staff
Last updated April 8, 2021
If you're currently in cancer treatment or have previously had cancer, you might be wondering if you should get the COVID-19 vaccine – and whether you can get vaccinated at MD Anderson.
“After careful review of all available evidence, our clinical experts have determined COVID-19 vaccines authorized for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are safe and recommended for former and current cancer patients,” says Welela Tereffe, M.D., chief medical executive. “They were highly effective at preventing symptomatic infection when tested in the general population, including in people with serious medical conditions.”
Here’s what our cancer patients should know about getting vaccinated at MD Anderson.
MD Anderson is inviting patients to schedule COVID-19 vaccination in phases
MD Anderson will vaccinate patients with one of the three COVID-19 vaccines authorized by the FDA, depending on the supply we are given by the state of Texas. The benefits of vaccination with any of the FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines far outweigh any differences between the products.
You will receive both text notifications and a notification in MyChart when new clinics are open for self-scheduling. This will be a personalized notification, which means only you will be able to sign up with the link. If you have a schedule conflict when you receive your invitation, you can use this same invitation to schedule in the future.
Timing matters for cancer patients receiving certain treatments
Cancer patients currently receiving chemotherapy, immunotherapy, CAR T cell therapy, stem cell transplants or who are participating in clinical trials should check with their MD Anderson provider about vaccine appointment timing. There are no safety concerns about vaccination for patients who are in treatment, but the vaccines will likely be more effective if timed in coordination with your treatment schedule.
If you are a current or past breast cancer patient, ask to receive the vaccine in the arm opposite of your breast cancer site. This will help support your immune respones and lessen lymph node enlargement. Enlarged lymph nodes can falsely affect cancer screening and diagnostic imaging results up to 6 weeks after vaccination.
Patients who have recently had surgery should wait for 2 weeks after their surgery date to receive the vaccine.
You should defer COVID-19 vaccination for 14 days after receiving any other vaccine.
You should defer vaccination for 90 days after treatment for symptomatic COVID-19 with monoclonal antibody therapy or convalescent plasma.
If you need a diagnostic imaging exam that includes your axillary lymph nodes, talk to your doctor to see if it is medically appropriate to delay the exam for 6 to 10 weeks after your COVID-19 vaccination. Your body's immune response to the vaccine may cause temporary inflammation of your axillary nodes and interfere with your imaging exam.
In rare cases, people with a history of allergic reactions should proceed with caution or avoid vaccination. Please review these resources for further information:
Johnson & Johnson fact sheet for vaccine recipients (ingredients, benefits, risks/side effects): English
All other patients can proceed to schedule a COVID-19 vaccine appointment without contacting their MD Anderson provider for further guidance.
“Cancer patients and survivors shouldn’t pass up the chance to get the vaccine, wherever it is available to them,” says Anita Ying, M.D., vice president of Ambulatory Medical Operations.
Patients should get the vaccine wherever it is available to them. Patients who have received the vaccine at another health care provider should let their care team know.
If you receive a Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, you will need to return for your second dose at your scheduled time
While Johnson & Johnson's vaccine requires only one dose, both the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines require two doses to ensure maximum efficacy. The Pfizer vaccine is delivered in two separate doses that are given 3 weeks apart. The Moderna vaccine is delivered in two separate doses given 4 weeks apart.
If you get the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine at MD Anderson, plan to receive both doses here, on schedule. If you get your first dose at another health care provider, plan to get your second dose from them, too. Each institution is only given enough Dose 2 supply to match their Dose 1 supply.
“You need to get both doses at the designated time unless you have an immediate or severe allergic reaction to the vaccine ingredients,” says Roy Chemaly, M.D., chief infection control officer.
We are only providing the COVID-19 vaccines on our Texas Medical Center Campus
All patient vaccination clinics are held on MD Anderson’s Texas Medical Center Campus at our Mid Campus Building 1 (1MC), located at 7007 Bertner. Free parking is available in the 1MC garage. Those with appointments will receive a map and directions as part of their scheduling process.
1MC is the only location where we will offer vaccines for the near future.
Concealed handguns aren't allowed in our vaccine clinics.
Visitor restrictions remain in place
To protect our employees and patients with weakened immune systems from COVID-19, MD Anderson is not allowing visitors on our campuses, with limited exceptions. As a result, patients will not be able to bring a caregiver with them when they receive the COVID-19 vaccine, even if that person has already received the vaccine.
Please plan for your family members or caregivers to drop you off and pick you up if they are driving you to your vaccine appointment. The Respite Area is not open on the weekends.
COVID-19 screening and masking protocols continue
Plan to arrive a few minutes early for your vaccine appointment. You’ll be screened for COVID-19 at the entrance and will asked to wear the medical-grade face mask we provide while you’re on our campus. To prevent the spread of infection, we also ask that you maintain social distancing and sanitize your hands.
There is no cost to you for the COVID-19 vaccine
Your insurance may be billed for the COVID-19 vaccine administration fee. Your insurance carrier should process the vaccine administration charge without applying any out-of-pocket costs to you. There is no charge for the vaccine itself, which is being provided by the state at no cost.
Since COVID-19 vaccine supply is limited and MD Anderson is working to prevent the spread of the virus on our campuses, we are only able to provide the vaccine for our employees and invited patients at this time.
Friends and family members in Texas may be able to find vaccine options through the Texas COVID-19 Vaccine Availability site. This interactive website allows users to locate vaccine distribution sites, including those that currently have available first doses.