Last updated October 22, 2021
COVID-19 Vaccine Update
The CDC now recommends a vaccine booster dose for certain groups of people who have achieved full vaccination with any of the three FDA-approved
COVID-19 vaccines: Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, or Pfizer-BioNTech.
If you received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you are eligible for a booster shot if you are age 18 or older and it has been at least two months since you received the vaccine.
If you received the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, you are eligible for a booster shot if it has been at least 6 months since the end of your vaccination series and you are in one of these groups:
Which Booster Should I Get?
The CDC advises that eligible persons can choose whichever vaccine booster they prefer. Some people may want the vaccine type that they originally received, while others may prefer to get a different booster. For example, you might choose to get a certain
booster because it is easily available to you, or because of potential side effects or reactions. CDC recommendations allow for this mix-and-match dosing for booster shots.
The CDC does not currently recommend a particular combination of vaccines and boosters — nor does it encourage sticking with the original vaccine or switching to a different one. According to the CDC, there is not yet enough data to make these recommendations.
Due to an overwhelming number of messages and calls, we may not be able to individually respond to your questions regarding third-dose or booster COVID-19 vaccinations at this time. We know this is frustrating, and we appreciate your understanding.
Why Get a Booster?
Research suggests that the effectiveness of the approved COVID-19 vaccines is decreasing over time and may not fully protect against a new strain, such as the Delta variant. A booster can help strengthen protection against severe disease and better shield
you from new variants. We strongly encourage anyone eligible for a booster dose to get one.
Where Should You Get a Booster?
If you are eligible for a booster dose, we encourage you to get it at any location that is convenient for you. Dana-Farber vaccine supply is limited at this time and we are only able to offer the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as we invite small groups of eligible
patients. If you are eligible for a booster dose or third dose, we encourage you to find a location near you by visiting vaxfinder.mass.gov or www.vaccines.gov.
Third Dose vs. Booster
Remember that a booster is different from a third dose:
- A booster dose is another dose given to fully vaccinated persons to extend their immune response.
- A third dose is considered a required part of the vaccination series that helps certain immunocompromised people achieve full vaccination. The CDC recommends that immunocompromised people (including most cancer patients) get a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at least 28 days after their second dose. For a third dose, you should try to get the same vaccine that
you received for your first two doses.
Third Dose of COVID-19 Vaccine Recommended for Most Cancer Patients
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine if you are being treated for cancer and have already received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines.
- You do not need to wait to get your third dose at Dana-Farber. Community locations, such as CVS and Walgreens pharmacies, offer third doses for eligible patients. You do not need a doctor's note to get your third dose at one of these
locations. Find one near you at vaxfinder.mass.gov or www.vaccines.gov.
- Dana-Farber is now scheduling third-dose vaccine appointments at our Chestnut Hill location for our patients who are immunocompromised and have already received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. If you received the
Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, we encourage you to check a community vaccination site near you to schedule a third Moderna dose.
- If you have a vaccination appointment at Dana-Farber, please bring your COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card and a government-issued ID. You can still get your vaccine dose if you do not have these items, but they may help your appointment
to go faster.
Under the CDC recommendation, people who are moderately to severely immunocompromised should get
another dose. This means that most Dana-Farber patients who are currently being treated for cancer should get a third dose of vaccine, including people who:
- Are actively being treated for cancer
- Have received CAR-T cell therapy within the last 2 years
- Have received a stem cell transplant within the last 2 years or are taking medicine to suppress the immune system after a stem cell transplant
- Are taking other drugs that may suppress the immune response (for example, biologic agents that are immunosuppressive, such as rituximab, and tumor-necrosis blockers)
- Are taking high-dose corticosteroids
- Have received a solid organ transplant
- Have moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency
- Have an advanced or untreated HIV infection
Why should you get a third dose of vaccine?
Research shows that people being treated for cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma, or multiple myeloma are more likely to get very sick if they get COVID-19. They may also have a longer illness. Data suggests that a third dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19
vaccines may provide more protection against these risks.
Do I need a note from my doctor?
No. When you sign up for a booster or third dose, you will need to attest that you are eligible under current guidelines, but you do not need a doctor’s note to get another dose.
How can I find my COVID-19 vaccination record?
If you were vaccinated at Dana-Farber or a Mass General Brigham site, or if your Dana-Farber doctor added your vaccine status to your medical record, you can use Patient Gateway to view your vaccination record. Visit our Patient Gateway information page,
or read How to Find Your Immunization Records (pdf).
Please Get Your COVID-19 Vaccination
If you are not already fully vaccinated, we strongly encourage you to get the COVID-19 vaccine to protect yourself and your loved ones. Find a location near you at vaxfinder.mass.gov or www.vaccines.gov.
- You should get a COVID-19 vaccination even if you were previously infected with the virus. The vaccine may help trigger a bigger immune response, which better prepares the body to fight off the coronavirus.
- If you recently had a COVID-19 infection, you are eligible to get the vaccine as soon as you are symptom-free and have completed your required isolation period.
COVID-19 Vaccine FAQ for Dana-Farber Patients
Can I go back to normal after I get the vaccine (no masks, etc.)?
Even after you are vaccinated, it is still important to follow best practices for preventing spread of the virus. This is particularly important for persons who are immunocompromised, such as cancer patients in treatment. To prevent the spread of the
virus, wear a facemask, encourage those around you to get vaccinated, maintain physical distancing when possible, and avoid crowded and poorly ventilated places.
Should I get a COVID-19 vaccine if I've recently had cellular therapy (such as CAR T-cell therapy) or a stem cell transplant?
Yes, but only after 100 days has passed since your transplant or cellular therapy. In fact, we recommend that all transplant and cellular therapy patients strongly consider a COVID-19 vaccine when 100 days have elapsed from their transplant or cellular
Is the vaccine safe?
As with any medication, we follow guidance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has a strong vaccine safety system to ensure that all vaccines are as safe as possible. Many clinical trials are currently evaluating the COVID-19 vaccines to
best determine their safety and effectiveness. Learn more from the CDC's vaccine safety page.
If I've had an allergic reaction to chemotherapy in the past, should I worry about reactions to the vaccine?
Talk with your care team if you've had an allergic reaction to certain chemotherapy drugs, such as those that contain polyethylene glycol (PEG), which is a compound that is part of the current COVID-19 vaccines. Learn more at www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19.
Who should not get the vaccine?
According to the Centers for Disease Control, you should not get a COVID-19 vaccine if you have had an immediate allergic reaction to any ingredient in either of the two available COVID-19 vaccines. This includes polyethylene glycol (PEG), a compound
found in some chemotherapy treatments. Talk with your care team or healthcare provider if you have questions. Learn more at www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19.
Is there a cost to receive a COVID-19 vaccine?
No. Per federal rules, there is no cost to you to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Your health insurance plan may be charged a modest administration fee, but there will be no cost to you.
What if I experience side effects after getting a COVID-19 vaccine?
No matter where you are given a COVID-19 vaccine, you will be given clear instructions on what to do if you experience side effects (which are typically mild). For answers to some of the more common questions about getting the COVID-19 vaccine, please
visit www.mass.gov/COVIDvaccine and click on "Frequently Asked Questions" or go directly to
How can I know whether the vaccine worked for me? Should I have an antibody test?
At this time there isn’t a way to know with certainty whether the vaccine worked, but it is likely that it offers at least some benefit, even in people with weakened immune systems.
There are antibody tests. However, even when they do detect antibodies, it’s not known how to interpret the results. We don’t yet know what level of antibody is needed for protection against the coronavirus or whether those antibodies will protect against
the variants. Further, the presence of antibodies may give people a false sense of security that they can stop wearing masks and taking precautions, which could make them more susceptible to infection.
At the same time, there are other cells of the immune system that can be stimulated by the vaccine to help protect you against the virus that aren’t detected by the antibody tests. This type of immunity is called cellular immunity. So, even if the antibody
level is low, or even undetectable, you still could have developed an immune response from the vaccine.
At this point, the Centers for Disease Control and many other medical experts do not recommend antibody testing for assessing immunity after vaccination. As we gain more understanding of the test results, their meaning, and how to respond
to those results, we may find that testing becomes useful. Until then, we recommend getting vaccinated and continuing to exercise precautions to reduce the risk of exposure.
Are you vaccinating patients seen in the Jimmy Fund Clinic?
Dana-Farber is only able to invite patients age 18 and older for vaccinations, but younger patients who are seen in the pediatric Jimmy Fund Clinic will be contacted by Boston Children's Hospital when they are eligible for a COVID vaccine. If you have
questions, please check the Boston Children's Hospital COVID-19 vaccine information page, or call the Boston Children's COVID-19
hotline at 617-355-4200 (toll-free 855-281-5730).
My child is not yet eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. When will he or she be able to get the vaccine?
Please check the
Boston Children's Hospital COVID-19 vaccine information page for answers to frequently asked questions, such as when children
might be able to receive a vaccine.
Additional Information on Vaccines