ASCO Advocates for Priority Status for Cancer Patients in COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Plans; Provides Information on Safety and Efficacy of Vaccinations

December 23, 2020

The American Society of Clinical Oncology and the Association for Clinical Oncology, collectively referred to as ASCO, understand the challenges faced by ASCO members and cancer patients in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, in determining the best treatment for patients, and in addressing questions about whether individuals with cancer should receive the COVID-19 vaccination. In addition to advocating for cancer patients to receive priority status for the vaccine given their increased risk for severe infection, ASCO is also continually assessing the emerging research and sharing with members currently available expert opinion and other relevant information on the safety and efficacy of vaccines in patients with cancer.

Effort to Guide Vaccine Distribution to Individuals with Cancer

The Association for Clinical Oncology (the Association) is actively working to ensure that cancer patients receive priority designation in vaccine distribution plans. The Association partnered with the American Cancer Society to weigh in with the Advisory Council on Immunization Practices (ACIP) before its recent meeting. ACIP is the advisory body on vaccines that makes recommendations to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which in turn guides state vaccination plans. The two groups requested in their letter that ACIP consider the evidence that demonstrates worse COVID-19 outcomes for people in active cancer treatment or with a history of cancer making that population more vulnerable to the virus and therefore warranting early vaccination. For more information about ACIP’s recommended priority groups, including those with high-risk medical conditions such as cancer, read here.

FAQs and Informational Webinar Available for Oncology Community

The American Society of Clinical Oncology (the Society) is working to make educational materials about the COVID-19 vaccine available online for the cancer community. It’s new COVID-19 Vaccine & Patients with Cancer page will be updated frequently as new materials become available.

The page currently has answers to frequently asked questions, which are based on a  recent webinar, “COVID-19 Vaccine & Patients with Cancer,” held with the Infectious Diseases Society of America to discuss the importance of COVID-19 vaccination and to provide expert opinion on its use for cancer patients. The panel of oncology and infectious disease experts agreed that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been shown to be safe for the general population and there was no evidence to believe that they would not be safe for most cancer patients.

The webinar featured:

  • Dana S. Wollins, DrPH, MGC (Host)
    Vice President, Clinical Affairs & Practice Guidelines, Infectious Diseases Society of America
  • Stephen S. Grubbs, MD, FASCO (Moderator)
    Vice President, Clinical Affairs, American Society of Clinical Oncology
  • Joshua A. Hill, MD
    Assistant Professor, Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
    Assistant Professor, Division of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, University of Washington
  • Michael G. Ison, MD, MS, FIDSA, FAST
    Professor, Divisions of Infectious Diseases and Organ Transplantation Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
    Medical Director, Transplant & Immunocompromised Host Infectious Diseases Service Northwestern University Comprehensive Transplant Center
    Director, Center for Clinical Research Northwestern University Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute
  • Gary H. Lyman, MD, MPH (Biostatistics), FASCO, FACP, FRCP
    Professor, Public Health Sciences and Clinical Research Divisions, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
    Senior Lead, Healthcare Quality and Policy, Hutchinson Institute for Cancer Outcomes Research
    Professor of Medicine, Public Health and Pharmacy, University of Washington School of Medicine
    Executive Officer, SWOG Cancer Research Network

ASCO will continue to communicate the latest information on COVID-19 vaccinations. Please check the ASCO COVID-19 Resources page frequently.