Last updated September 29, 2022
COVID-19 Vaccine Update
If you are in active cancer treatment, you are considered immunocompromised and you may need additional shots or boosters to best protect against COVID-19 infection. Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website to find the latest
COVID-19 vaccine guidance for immunocompromised patients.
The CDC has approved bivalent COVID-19 booster vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer. “Bivalent” means
these boosters target both the original COVID-19 strain and the newer Omicron variant. These updated boosters are now the only booster shots recommended for persons who have completed their primary vaccination series.
- The Pfizer bivalent booster is available for anyone age 12 and older.
- The Moderna bivalent booster is available for anyone age 18 and older.
Both boosters are available to you regardless of the number or type of prior booster doses you have received. But you should wait at least two months since your last COVID-19 vaccine dose before getting another booster. Use the CDC’s website to find out when you can get your booster.
If you need a new COVID-19 vaccination series or an additional vaccine dose, we strongly encourage you to make an appointment at any community location that is convenient for you. You do not need a doctor's note to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Find a location
near you at vaxfinder.mass.gov or www.vaccines.gov.
We recommend these community locations because Dana-Farber is no longer able to offer a large number of COVID-19 vaccine appointments to our patients.
Booster Dose vs. Additional Dose
A booster dose is different from an additional dose:
- A booster dose is another dose given to fully vaccinated persons to extend their immune response. The CDC advises that eligible persons can choose whichever vaccine they prefer for a booster dose. Some people may
want the vaccine type that they originally received, while others may prefer to get a different booster.
- An additional 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 an additional dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine after their second 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).