Study Shows Cancer Patients Overlooked in COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout

The study authors sought to determine the proportion of states that elected to follow CDC recommendations by identifying each state’s COVID-19 vaccination webpage through keyword-based internet search and set out to identify information about vaccinations for patients with cancer.

A new study found that approximately two-thirds of the United States failed to prioritize patients with cancer for COVID-19 vaccinations, despite recommendations from the CDC, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.

The study authors sought to determine the proportion of states that elected to follow CDC recommendations by identifying each state’s COVID-19 vaccination webpage through keyword-based internet search and set out to identify information about vaccinations for patients with cancer. The data showed that although 43 states included cancer among criteria for vaccination, only 17 states gave patients with cancer the same immunization priority as patients between 65 and 74 years of age, and 8 precisely defined a qualifying cancer diagnosis.

“Although the CDC recommended that all states consider people with significant medical conditions to have equal vaccination priority with people over the age of 65, we found that nearly two-thirds of states did not give equal vaccination priority to patients with cancer,” said study lead author Rahul Prasad, MD, in a press release.

Moreover, 42 states did not clearly define the criteria for cancer patients to receive priority vaccination. Prasad added that the lack of clarity can be problematic due to considerable variation within the cancer patient population.

“You could have someone diagnosed with breast cancer at age 40 who is now 55, in remission, and wondering if they’re eligible,” Prasad said in the press release. “On the other side of the spectrum, someone newly diagnosed with low-risk prostate cancer may not be particularly immunocompromised if they haven’t started treatment yet.”

Out of the 8 states that defined a qualifying cancer diagnosis for vaccine prioritization, only 6 were limited to patients receiving treatment, according to the study authors.

“I don’t think anyone intended to push people to the back of the line,” Prasad said in the press release. “The efforts were well intentioned, but what ended up happening was that the CDC governing bodies’ definition of high-risk medical conditions was too broad.”

Prasad noted that COVID-19 booster shots offer an opportunity to better mitigate disparities in vaccine access.

“It’s especially critical this time around to make sure these most at-risk people are getting their boosters in a timely fashion,” Prasad said in the press release.

REFERENCE

Cancer patients overlooked in COVID-19 vaccine rollout. Imaging Technology News. December 2, 2021. Accessed December 2, 2021. https://www.itnonline.com/content/cancer-patients-overlooked-covid-19-vaccine-rollout