The COVID-19 pandemic, caused by the SARS-CoV2 virus, has infected millions worldwide with cancer patients demonstrating a higher prevalence for severe disease and poorer outcomes. Recently, the BNT162b2 mRNA COVID-19 vaccine was released as the primary means to combat COVID-19. The currently reported incidence of local and systemic side effects was 27% in the general public. The safety of the BNT162b2 mRNA COVID-19 vaccine has not been studied in patients with an active cancer diagnosis who are either ongoing or plan to undergo oncologic therapy.
This retrospective single center study reviewed the charts of 210 patients with active cancer diagnoses that received both doses of the BNT162b2 mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. The development of side effects from the vaccine, hospitalizations or exacerbations from various oncologic treatment were documented. Type of oncologic treatment (immunotherapy, chemotherapy, hormonal, biologic, radiation or mixed) was documented to identify if side effects were related to treatment type. The time at which the vaccine was administered in relation to treatment onset (on long term therapy, within one month of therapy or prior to therapy) was also documented to identify any relationships.
65 (31%) participants experienced side effects from the BNT162b2 mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, however most were mild to moderate. Treatment protocol was not linked to the development of vaccine related side effects (p = .202), nor was immunotherapy, specifically, (p = .942). The timing of vaccine administered in relation to treatment onset was also not related to vaccine related side effects (p = .653). 6 (2.9%) participants were hospitalized and 4 (2%) died.
The incidence of side effects in cancer patients is similar to what has been reported for the general public (31% vs 27%). Therefore, we believe that the BNT162b2 mRNA COVID-19 vaccine is safe in oncologic patients undergoing numerous cancer treatments.
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All authors have declared no conflicts of interest.