What should chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) patients know about the COVID-19 vaccines? Dr. Matthew Davids shares information on COVID-19 vaccine safety and efficacy – and whether a specific vaccine is recommended for CLL patients.
Dr. Matthew Davids is Director of Clinical Research in the Division of Lymphoma at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Learn more about Dr. Davids here.
Let’s start with a question that’s on the mind of many of our audience members. Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe for CLL patients?
Very timely question. The simple answer is yes. There are now actually three different vaccines that have been granted emergency use authorization by the FDA.
And I would say that so far, we’ve seen clinical trial evidence suggesting these are very safe vaccines in the general population.
Our own experience with our own CLL patients so far has also suggested safety, so I think it’s very important that our CLL patients get vaccinated as soon as they can. I think the bigger concern more than safety is on the efficacy side of the vaccine, meaning how effective are these vaccines going to be for CLL patients? That’s not something that we know yet from the larger clinical trials that have been done. So, those numbers you see quoted, 95 percent protective, that’s in the general populations.
We do worry a bit based on our experience with other vaccines in CLL patients that they may not be quite as effective, but we don’t know that yet. Fortunately, that’s something that we’re studying now, both at our center and in some nationwide efforts, to look for example at the antibody production that CLL patients can make before and after vaccination. I’m hopeful that over the next few months we’ll start to learn about how effective these vaccines are specifically for CLL patients.
We certainly expect they will have some benefit, so that’s why we recommend vaccination for all of our CLL patients. But once patients are vaccinated, it doesn’t give them a free pass to then take their masks off and go back to normal life. Particularly CLL patients I think need to be careful even after vaccination to continue to do social distancing, hand hygiene, and all these things.
Is there one type of vaccine that’s more suited for CLL patients?
Nope. As far as we can tell, all three of the approved vaccines so far are safe and should have some good effects for CLL patients.
There’s no benefit of one versus the others, so the best one to get is the one that’s in your muscle and injected. Whatever you can get access to, that’s the best one for you.