Cancer patients overlooked in COVID-19 vaccine rollout

CHICAGO, December 2, 2021 / PRNewswire / – Almost two-thirds of US states have not prioritized cancer patients for COVID-19 vaccinations, despite recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), according to a study presented today ‘hui during the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

Cancer patients are particularly vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19. Illness and treatments like chemotherapy and radiation therapy can weaken their immune system.

The available vaccines are highly effective, but initial supply limitations forced the CDC’s advisory committee on immunization practices to make tough decisions about prioritizing patients. People aged 16 to 64 with high-risk conditions were grouped together in the latter part of the first phase, as well as people aged 65 to 74. However, this group included 129 million people nationwide, which led many states to under-prioritize.

For the new study, the researchers set out to determine the proportion of states that chose to follow the CDC’s recommendations. They identified each state’s COVID vaccination webpage through a keyword-based internet search and set out to identify information on vaccination of cancer patients.

While 43 states included cancer as a vaccination criteria, only 17 gave cancer patients the same vaccination priority as patients aged 65 to 74, and only eight precisely defined an eligible cancer diagnosis. .

“Although the CDC recommended that all states consider people with significant medical conditions as having the same vaccination priority as people over 65, we found that almost two-thirds of states did not grant not the same priority of vaccination for cancer patients, ”the study said. main author Raoul Prasad, MD, from the Ohio State University Complete cancer center in Columbus, Ohio.

Forty-two states have not clearly defined criteria for priority vaccination of cancer patients. This lack of clarity is problematic, noted Dr Prasad, due to the considerable variation within the cancer patient population.

“You could have a person diagnosed with breast cancer at age 40 who is now 55, in remission, and wondering if they are eligible,” Dr Prasad said. “On the other side of the spectrum, a person newly diagnosed with low risk prostate cancer may not be particularly immunosuppressed if they have not yet started treatment.”

Of the eight states that have defined an eligible cancer diagnosis for vaccine prioritization, six have limited it to patients currently receiving treatment.

Dr Prasad said the insufficient number of states that have followed the CDC’s recommendations is in part due to attempts to streamline vaccination efforts.

“I don’t think anyone intended to push people to the back of the line,” he said. “The efforts were well-intentioned, but what ultimately happened was that the definition of high-risk medical conditions by the CDC’s governing bodies was too broad.”

In early fall, the CDC approved a booster shot for the elderly and those at high risk. Dr Prasad said these booster shots provide an opportunity to better alleviate disparities in access to vaccines.

“This time around, it is especially critical to ensure that those most at risk receive their reminders in a timely manner,” said Dr Prasad.

The co-author is Joshua Palmer, MD

Note: Copies of RSNA 2021 press releases and electronic images will be available online at

The RSNA is an association of radiologists, radiation oncologists, medical physicists and related scientists promoting excellence in patient care and the delivery of health care through education, research and technological innovation. The Company is based in Oak Brook, Illinois. (

For user-friendly information on cancer screening, imaging and treatment, visit

SOURCE Radiological Society of North America (RSNA)

Comments are closed.