VACCINATING HIGH-RISK CANCER PATIENTS
IN response to the National Covid-19 Vaccination Programme information booklet released on Feb 18, Together Against Cancer, Malaysia (TAC) would like to thank the Malaysian government for prioritising cancer patients and working tirelessly to combat the pandemic.
We are reassured that the vaccination is voluntary, and that all individuals will be giving informed consent and will be followed up to monitor side-effects.
Universiti Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) and TAC organised a forum on Sunday on Covid-19 vaccines and cancer patients.
The forum panellists were a multidisciplinary group of experts from UMMC and Hospis Malaysia. They shared their knowledge in their respective fields of oncology, haematology, immunology, infectious disease and community palliative care.
We are encouraged to know the reports of severe allergic reaction, or anaphylaxis, of 4.7 cases per one million doses of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine are acceptable thresholds compared with other drugs.
The types of vaccines procured by our government are also safe for cancer patients.
Cancer patients, who have completed active treatments, are on maintenance drugs, are well and do not have immune system issues, should be vaccinated based on the fact that cancer survivors are at risk of early recurrence and mortality.
However, we wish to point out from the booklet that individuals with immune system issues are under precautionary measures.
It was contraindicated for those on active treatments to receive the vaccine.
The UMMC-TAC public forum identified high-risk cancer patients at risk of a severe version of the Covid-19 disease and have immune system issues that will benefit from vaccination: These are patients with haematological cancers and those on active cancer treatments that affect their immune system
Contrary to the “well” cancer patients that can be vaccinated wholesale in community centres like everyone else in Phase Two of the immunisation programme, these high-risk patients require specialised attention and individualised recommendations for vaccination based on the timing and type of treatments they are undergoing.
These patients should be vaccinated based on recommendations from their oncologists.
Hence, we hope that civil societies and healthcare practitioners can assist the government in the Phase Two roll-out. The panellists at the forum identified several needs:
Guidance for healthcare providers in vaccinating cancer patients.
Oncology healthcare providers in the public and private sectors should have access to vaccinate these high-risk cancer patients.
Caregivers of these high-risk cancer patients should be vaccinated.
Hence, TAC urges the government to reach out to professional bodies and civil society groups to assist in Phase Two of the vaccination rollout. And we highly recommend that all cancer patients get vaccinated.
PROF NUR AISHAH MOHD TAIB
Vice President, Together Against Cancer (TAC); Head, Universiti Malaya Cancer Research Institute; Senior Consultant Breast Surgeon, Universiti Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC)
PROF HO GWO FUANG
Council member, TAC; Senior Consultant Oncologist, UMMC
PROF GAN GIN GIN
Member, TAC; Senior Consultant Haematologist, UMMC
WONG KUAN SING
Note: TAC is a multidisciplinary group of cancer advocates and can be reached at email@example.com