Fourth dose now recommended for cancer patients over 16

by | What We're Talking About

Cancer Australia has released updated information on COVID-19 vaccination for cancer patients over the age of 16 following the latest change to official advice.

A fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose is now recommended for people over 16 years old who have severe immune suppression, including people with cancer.

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) now recommends a 3rd primary dose of a COVID-19 vaccine for severely immunocompromised children and adults aged 5 years or older, and a booster (fourth) doseof a COVID-19 vaccine, given 3 months after their primary course for those over the age of 16.

The impact, safety and optimal timing of booster doses are continually reviewed by ATAGI. Reflecting the new recommendation by ATAGI, Cancer Australia has updated its information  for people with cancer.

“Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination program is designed to safeguard all people in Australia from the harm caused by COVID-19 primarily through preventing serious illness and death, said Professor Dorothy Keefe, CEO Cancer Australia.

“People with cancer may be immunocompromised by their cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy, or the disease itself. As people who are severely immunocompromised may have a suboptimal response or non-response to the standard two-dose primary vaccine schedule, ATAGI recommends a third primary dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and then a fourth dose or booster in those 16 years and older, to increase their protection.”

Professor Keefe continued, “Current evidence suggests there is a reduction in protection against COVID-19 infection following vaccination over time. Protection against transmission from vaccinated individuals who are infected also appears to wane over time.”

“Studies from around the world have shown the four vaccines and boosters approved for use in Australia to be safe and effective.”

Cancer Australia developed its Frequently Asked Questions to address questions and concerns about the vaccines for people affected by cancer in Australia.

ATAGI recently made its recommendation to reduce the interval for the booster to 3 months after the primary course after closely monitoring the epidemiology and characteristics of COVID-19 caused by the Omicron variant. It also considered the emerging data on the need, potential benefits, and optimal timing of a vaccine booster dose to prevent COVID-19 due to this variant.

Tailored information on the COVID-19 vaccines for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people affected by cancer can be found here. This information has been developed in collaboration with Indigenous health professionals.

Information on COVID-19 and vaccines for people affected by cancer is available in 10 other languages to support the needs of culturally and linguistically diverse populations: Arabic, Chinese – Simplified, Chinese – Traditional, Greek, Hindi, Italian, Korean, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.