The COVID-19 pandemic created additional challenges and concerns for blood cancer patients and caregivers, and we’re here to help. Below, you’ll find an overview of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s COVID-19 resources, frequently asked questions (FAQs), and news and information specifically developed to meet the unique needs of people with leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma, and all other blood cancers.
We have conducted our own COVID-19 research at LLS and have also provided study support to institutions that produce important data on how the COVID-19 virus and vaccines affect people with blood cancer. You’ll find the results of some of that work below.
Patients who have specific questions or concerns should, as always, speak directly with their oncologist and care team.
—Gwen Nichols, MD, LLS Chief Medical Officer
COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
(Information updated regularly based on public health information and guidance)
LLS has been advocating for vaccination policies that consider and serve the unique needs of blood cancer patients since the beginning of the pandemic. Here, you’ll find the latest information on COVID-19, vaccines, and other prevention strategies to help people with blood cancer and survivors protect themselves.
Last updated September 22, 2023
As most of the U.S. enters peak season for West Nile and other mosquito and tick-borne illnesses, the CDC is advising that patients at higher risk of serious outcomes from these infections take specific precautions.
Although cases and serious outcomes are rare, blood cancer patients who are taking or who in the past 12 months have completed treatment with an immunosuppressive therapy, such as rituximab (Rituxan), obinutuzumab (Gazyva), CD19 CAR T therapy, or BTK inhibitors, may be at higher risk for severe illness and death.
These patients, especially, should follow CDC advice when possible:
- Wear loose-fitting long-sleeved shirts and pants
- Use insect repellent registered with the EPA
- Routinely check their body and clothing for ticks, as well as children and pets who may bring ticks into the home
- Remove standing water near their homes to prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs
However, patients are not advised to stop taking their immunosuppressive treatments unless otherwise advised by their physician. Patients with weakened immune systems because of their blood cancer or treatment, should seek medical care immediately if they suspect they have been bitten by a tick or mosquito and they develop symptoms such as persistent headaches, fever, body aches, unusual weakness, confusion, or behavioral changes unrelated to their health condition.
For more information on how to better prevent mosquito and tick bites, visit the CDC’s website.
If you or a loved one need personalized disease, treatment or support information, you can contact one of our Information Specialists: https://www.lls.org/support-resources/information-specialists
On September 12, 2023, the CDC recommended the updated 2023-2024 COVID-19 vaccine for everyone 6 months and older. The updated vaccine is designed to protect against currently circulating COVID virus variants and is meant to provide protection against severe disease, hospitalization, and death, as well as long COVID.
People with moderate to severe immunocompromise, including blood cancer patients and survivors, may receive additional doses of the 2023-2024 COVID-19 vaccine if recommended by their healthcare team. In general, CDC recommends waiting at least two months between doses and up to 3 months after having a COVID infection.
Moderna and Pfizer vaccines will be available across the country in the coming days. Novavax has indicated that its updated vaccine is being reviewed by the FDA, which has prioritized its work to make the vaccine available as soon as possible. (Update: The updated Novavax COVID-19 vaccines was authorized for use on October 3, 2023).
These new vaccines come at a time when COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are on the rise. However, cases, hospitalizations and deaths remain far below levels seen earlier in the pandemic. LLS cautions, however, that these rates are in the general public and that blood cancer patients, particularly those with B-cell depleting cancers, such as CLL and most forms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, continue to be at increased risk of more serious outcomes.
In addition to the updated COVID vaccine, blood cancer patients should also consider getting their annual flu shot, which can be given at the same visit, and should discuss with their healthcare team whether the new RSV vaccine is right for them.
While getting vaccinated will provide at least some protection to most blood cancer patients, LLS developed COVID-19 Protection: Four Steps Blood Cancer Patients Can Take to help them stay safe from COVID-19 and balance out activities important to their quality of life. It’s important that patients make personalized risk decisions in consultation with their oncology treatment team.
COVID-19 ILLNESS IN PEOPLE WITH BLOOD CANCER AND SURVIVORS
Overall, blood cancer patients are at risk of more severe COVID outcomes—including hospitalization and death, but the risk is not the same across all types of blood cancer. LLS recommends that blood cancer patients and survivors protect themselves by getting vaccinated and encouraging those around them to get vaccinated as well. They should also continue to take other preventive precautions such as wearing masks, social distancing, hand washing and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces.
Taking CD-20 targeting agents such as rituximab and obinutuzumab has been tied to an increased risk of severe COVID-19 in lymphoma patients. Patients with lymphoma may develop immune deficiency due to their disease or due to treatment with these medications, which can lead to increased incidence and severity of infections.
You should speak to your physician, as terminating BTK inhibitor therapy could lead to progression of CLL.
People who are moderately to severely immunocompromised may remain infectious beyond 20 days. For these people, CDC recommends an isolation period of at least 20 days and ending isolation in conjunction with testing and consultation with an infectious disease specialist. To end isolation, you should have at least two negative COVID-19 tests taken at least 24 hours apart (this can be an at-home test or a laboratory-based PCR test) and you should have no fever for at least 24 hours without taking a fever-reducing medicine like Advil or Tylenol. If you test positive beyond 30 days, you should consult with an infectious disease specialist. If you also have ongoing symptoms, you may benefit from high-titer convalescent plasma. You can read more about this treatment in the "Treatment and Prevention of COVID-19" section of this FAQ.
COVID-19 VACCINATION FOR BLOOD CANCER PATIENTS AND SURVIVORS
Yes! COVID-19 vaccines are safe and offer at least some protection to the majority of blood cancer patients and survivors. However, since not everyone will get full protection, LLS recommends that blood cancer patients and survivors get vaccinated plus layer on additional protections like wearing masks and social distancing.
The risk of serious illness from COVID-19 is higher for people with blood cancer, so unless you have a true medical contraindication for the vaccine, which is very rare, LLS encourages you to talk with your healthcare team about staying up to date with COVID-19 (and all other) vaccines.
LLS recommends following CDC guidance, which generally does not state a preference for any particular COVID-19 vaccine. This can sometimes change during periods when updated vaccines are being introduced, at which time CDC may recommended an updated vaccine over the others until all brands are updated.
By “acting unvaccinated” we mean that in addition to getting vaccinated for COVID-19, blood cancer patients should continue to take preventive measures such as wearing masks, social distancing, hand washing, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces. This is especially important since some blood cancer patients may not get optimal protection from the vaccines and may be more susceptible to breakthrough infection after vaccination compared to the general public.
According to COVID-19 guidelines from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, for patients who have received lymphocyte-depleting therapy, it is reasonable to consider deferring vaccination until six months after completion of therapy or until there is evidence of recovery of lymphocyte numbers and function. However, if there is any opportunity to be vaccinated BEFORE therapy starts, this should be done. We encourage you to discuss specific questions or concerns with your medical team as every patient’s experience is unique.
Certain lymphoma therapies, particularly rituximab and obinutuzumab, impair antibody response to vaccines even after treatment discontinuation. This does not mean people being treated with these medications should not get vaccinated or that the vaccines will not offer them some protection. However, patients should consider themselves still at risk and remain vigilant even after vaccination.
Revaccination may be an option for patients who received one or more doses of the COVID-19 vaccine while undergoing treatment with these therapies. The CDC recommends that revaccination should start about six months after completion of therapy. However, a patient’s own healthcare team is best positioned to determine when and if revaccination is appropriate.
Published reports suggest a possible benefit from BTKis (ibrutinib and acalabrutinib) in people with severe COVID-19 infection. While more rigorous studies are needed to confirm those results, the American Society of Hematology’s (ASH) recommendation is to continue BTKis in patients with CLL diagnosed with COVID-19.
People who have a stem cell transplant or who receive CAR T-cell treatment are often immunosuppressed for months following treatment due to maintenance therapies and immunosuppressive drugs, among other factors. During this period, the immune system will not respond to vaccines. Research supported by LLS and reported by LLS chief scientific officer Dr. Lee Greenberger and others supports starting COVID-19 vaccination as early as three months following HSCT or CAR T-cell therapies.
It is very important for transplant and CAR T-cell patients to follow the vaccination schedule recommended by their healthcare team, and in the case of HSCT, their transplant team. Transplant teams in particular are very knowledgeable about when and how to go ahead with vaccinations following transplant.
Because vaccine effectiveness may be reduced in transplant patient compared to the general public, even after vaccination, LLS recommends that patients continue to follow additional safety precautions, like masking.
COVID-19 vaccines offer at least some protection to the majority of blood cancer patients and the latest studies continue to show the benefit of getting all updated COVID-19 vaccines as recommended. The LLS National Patient Registry has shown that immune response to mRNA vaccination varies based on a patient’s type of blood cancer and treatment received. That’s why LLS recommends that all blood cancer patients and survivors get vaccinated, act unvaccinated.
Yes! Blood cancer patients should talk with their healthcare team about staying up to date with the most current COVID-19 vaccine recommended by the CDC. The updated vaccine is designed to protect against currently circulating COVID virus variants and is meant to provide protection against severe disease, hospitalization, and death, as well as long COVID.
Some patients may have a diminished or even no antibody response due to their type of blood cancer or the type of treatment received. This does NOT mean that vaccination is futile. It is very important to continue receiving all COVID-19 vaccine doses as recommended. The latest research has also shown that even if antibody levels are low, their quality may improve with additional vaccine doses.
Antibodies are just one piece of the puzzle and there are other ways our immune systems respond to vaccination that may provide protection. A study from the LLS National Patient Registry shows that some blood cancer patients without detectable antibodies after vaccination develop T-cells that are primed to attack the COVID-19 virus.
Antibody testing does not need to be done unless recommended and prescribed by your healthcare provider. Antibody tests should be interpreted with caution. Having antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, appears to offer some degree of protection from getting sick and from having severe disease. However, having antibodies may not eliminate your risk of a COVID-19 breakthrough infection completely. Moreover, even if antibodies are made, they may have reduced ability to block or reduce infections against certain variant strains of COVID-19. Fortunately, the latest COVID-19 vaccines as of September 2023 will induce antibodies that still retain some ability to protect against the latest strains of COVID-19.
Vaccines are designed to get the body to develop protection against a disease without us having to get sick. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use messenger RNA (mRNA) to instruct immune cells to make the so-called “spike protein” found on the surface of the COVID-19 virus. The Novavax vaccine includes fragments of COVID-19 that can trigger an immune response without causing COVID.
Vaccines prepare your body to fight infection if you are exposed to the actual virus or to minimize its effects if you do become infected. The lightning speed at which the vaccines became available is truly remarkable, but they are built on decades of rigorous and thoroughly reviewed research.
VACCINE ELIGIBILITY, TIMING AND AUTHORIZATIONS
As of September 13, 2023, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine (Comirnaty) and the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine (Spikevax) are FDA approved and recommended by the CDC. The Novavax vaccine is authorized for use by the FDA.
Everyone 6 months and older should stay up to date with all COVID-19 vaccines as recommended by the CDC and in consultation with their own healthcare team. Specific vaccine products may be available for different age groups.
The J&J (Janssen) COVID-19 vaccine is no longer available or recommended in the United States.
Because the immune system is very complex, there is no simple answer to who is moderately to severely immunocompromised. The National Institutes of Health COVID-19 guidelines include all blood cancer patients who are on active treatment in this category as well blood cancer patients who may have sub-optimal responses to COVID-19 vaccines regardless of their treatment status, such as those with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
The immune system is also compromised in anyone who has had a stem cell transplant or who takes medicine to suppress their immune system. Blood cancer treatments that suppress the immune system include, but are not limited to: Bruton tyrosine kinase (BTK) inhibitors (e.g., Imbruvica, Calquence, Brukinsa), anti-CD20 antibody treatments (e.g., Rituxan, Gazyva) and certain CAR T-cell treatments (Breyanzi, Kymriah, Tecartus, Yescarta).
LLS strongly encourages all blood cancer patients, regardless of where they are in their treatment, remission or recovery (or “watch and wait” period, which is common for CLL patients), to talk with their blood cancer treatment team about the status of their immune system and whether additional 2023-2024 COVID-19 vaccine doses are right for them.
Generally speaking, you should receive the same vaccine brand for your primary vaccination series. After that, vaccines are interchangeable, as long as you are receiving the most updated version. Currently, the most updated is the 2023-2024 COVID-19 vaccine.
Yes. Any COVID-19 vaccine can be given with other vaccines without regard to timing, but it’s always best to check with your healthcare provider. This includes getting vaccines like flu and COVID-19 on the same day, as long as the shots are given in different arms, or if in the same arm, at least 1 inch or more apart.
These are extremely important questions. Since the situation for every person is different, LLS recommends discussing the timing of your COVID-19 vaccination with your oncology healthcare team. Generally, it is best to vaccinate before cancer treatment as the immune response to the vaccine may be impaired in patients receiving treatments that affect the immune system.
However, if you are already undergoing treatment, that does not mean you should forego vaccination. Even if your immune system does not respond fully to vaccination, some protection is better than none, especially for a disease as serious as COVID-19, which tends to strike cancer patients harder. For this reason, it is advisable for patients with blood cancer to encourage family, friends and others they come in close contact with to get vaccinated too.
VACCINE SIDE EFFECTS AND SAFETY
Billions of COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered safely to adults and children worldwide.
LLS collected real world data from blood cancer patients and survivors through the LLS National Patient Registry. We found that the vaccine side effect profile is very similar in blood cancer patients and survivors compared to the general public. Read more about the results here.
Cases of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the lining outside the heart) have been rarely observed after COVID-19 vaccination, most frequently in adolescent and young adult males within 7 days after receiving the second dose of an mRNA (Moderna or Pfizer) vaccine. Clinicals trials of the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine show a similar risk.
According to data collected and monitored by the CDC, “most people with myocarditis or pericarditis who received care responded well to medicine and rest and felt better quickly.”
Severe allergy to specific components of any COVID-19 vaccine is rare but is a contraindication to vaccination. Please discuss your specific risk with your healthcare provider.
Some people receiving a COVID-19 vaccine have reported swollen lymph nodes on the underside of the arm where the vaccine was administered 2-4 days after receiving the vaccine. Lymph node swelling can be a common reaction, or side effect, to any vaccine and those who have reported swollen lymph nodes usually have them return to normal within four weeks. In most cases, no additional imaging tests are needed for swollen lymph nodes after recent vaccinations unless the swelling persists or there are other symptoms. Understandably, for cancer patients who have had lymph node enlargement as a sign of their cancer, any enlargement may be of concern. You should contact your healthcare team to determine how to follow up if you have post-vaccine lymph node enlargement.
STAYING SAFE AFTER VACCINATION
COVID-19, RSV and the flu are all respiratory viruses. While there are differences in how they spread, the precautions common in the early days of COVID can help protect against all three. This includes social distancing, masking, frequent handwashing, disinfecting surfaces and avoiding others when they are sick.
COVID spreads primarily through sneezing, coughing and expelling respiratory droplets, making masks and social distancing extremely important in stopping its transmission. RSV spreads much more through contaminated surfaces, making handwashing and cleaning surfaces more critical with RSV than with COVID. Flu is somewhere in the middle—it can spread through respiratory droplets from sneezing and coughing, but also from touching contaminated surfaces and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes.
The most important thing each one of us can do is get our COVID and influenza vaccines as soon as we are eligible. COVID and influenza vaccines can be given at the same visit, either in different arms or at least 1 inch apart in the same arm. For the first time, RSV vaccines will be available starting in fall 2023. CDC recommends a single dose of RSV vaccine for people 60 and older, if they and their healthcare provider believe the vaccine is right for them. Adults at the highest risk for severe RSV illness includes those with weakened immune systems, as well as those with chronic heart or lung disease and those living in nursing homes or long-term care facilities. There is also a monoclonal antibody recommended to protect young infants from RSV. It is given to infants younger than 8 months born during or entering their first RSV season (which generally starts during fall and peaks in winter) and to infants and children 8-19 months old who are at increased risk for severe RSV disease entering their second RSV season.
Even when fully vaccinated against COVID-19, CDC and LLS recommend that blood cancer patients and survivors should consider taking additional precautions to avoid infection. This is especially important since some blood cancer patients may not get optimal protection from the vaccines and may be more susceptible to infection and severe outcomes of COVID-19 after vaccination compared to the general public.
Blood cancer patients should remain cautious about travel. Travel increases your chances of getting infected and spreading COVID-19. Before considering travel, talk to your cancer care team about whether there are any additional precautions you should take, such as wearing a mask, washing your hands frequently, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces when possible. Make sure you travel with COVID-19 test kits that have not expired. You can check for details about specific test kits on the FDA web site here.
While vaccines offer at least some protection to most blood cancer patients, some will not get optimal protection and will be more susceptible to infection and severe outcomes of COVID-19 after vaccination compared to the general public. LLS encourages everyone to respect and protect blood cancer patients and others with weakened immune systems that put them at increased risk from COVID.19.
Vaccination for everyone, including friends and family is important. By getting vaccinated, those with normal immunity can reduce the risk that they transmit COVID-19 to those whose immunity is impaired.
TREATMENT AND PREVENTION OF COVID-19
Through ongoing validation of at home tests, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been able to extend expiration dates for many at-home COVID test kits. You can check for details about specific test kits on the FDA web site here.
With the end of the public health emergency declaration, free testing is not as widely available as it once was. CDC has a website available to search for No-Cost COVID-19 Testing. State and local public health departments may also provide testing or be able to help state and local residents locate free testing sites.
Some people with compromised immune systems may have prolonged symptoms from COVID-19 and may remain infectious longer than those without immune impairment. The NIH expert treatment panel suggests one of the following treatment options for these patients, in consultation with their healthcare team. 1) Longer or additional treatment with the oral medication Paxlovid, 2) Longer or additional treatment with remdesivir, a medication given by injection, or 3) Treatment with high-titer COVID-19 convalescent plasma (collected from the blood of vaccinated donors who recently recovered from COVID-19). You can read more about these treatments below.
The National Institutes of Health COVID-19 expert panel recommends prompt treatment with antiviral medications for non-hospitalized patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 who are immunocompromised.
The FDA has approved or authorized several antiviral medications to treat patients with COVID who are at increased risk of serious outcomes of the infection, such as blood cancer patients and survivors. To be effective, these treatments must be started as quickly as possible after a positive COVID-19 test or the onset of symptoms. There is also an infusion called high titer convalescent plasma that may be helpful in certain patients. Monoclonal antibody treatments are no longer recommended because they are not active against currently circulating strains.
Not at this time.
Evusheld, a monoclonal antibody that was used in addition to vaccines eventually lost its effectiveness at preventing infection with newer COVID-19 variants. The company that made Evusheld is researching a new formulation designed to be more broadly active against COVID-19 variants. There is a clinical trial testing the new treatment that is open to people with weaker immune systems. Patients and caregivers can learn more about joining the trial here.
Yes, you will need a prescription to receive any COVID-19 treatment. Physicians, advanced practice registered nurses and physician assistants may prescribe these medications as authorized under individual state laws. You do not need a prescription to receive vaccines.
COVID-19 antivirals work by disrupting the replication of the virus inside the body. This lowers the amount of virus in the body (also called the viral load), which can help reduce the severity of COVID-19 symptoms and shorten the length of the illness. To be effective, antiviral medicines generally need to be taken very soon after a positive COVID-19 test or the onset of symptoms.
There are three antiviral medicines available to treat COVID-19 in people who are at high risk of progression to severe infection and outcomes, such as blood cancer patients. Paxlovid (ritonavir-boosted nirmatrelvir, for people 12 and older) and Lagevrio (molnupiravir, for people 18 and older) are oral medicines for use only in non-hospitalized patients; both are taken for five days. Veklury (remdesivir), which can be used in adults and pediatric patients as young as 28 days of age, is given by IV or injection at a healthcare facility for three days. c
Effective February 1, 2023, FDA removed a requirement for a positive COVID-19 test in order to receive treatment with an oral antiviral (Paxlovid or Lagevrio). This is because, in rare instances, individuals who were recently exposed to someone with COVID-19 and who develop symptoms consistent with COVID-19 may be diagnosed with the infection even before they test positive. It is important to seek care immediately if you have COVID-19 symptoms or test positive as these medications are most effective when started early.
COVID-19 rebound has been reported to occur in some patients between 2 and 8 days after initial recovery from COVID and usually includes recurrent but milder symptoms and a positive COVID test after having tested negative. Rebound is not limited to people who have taken Paxlovid; symptoms can flare up again after resolving even among people who do not take the medication.
Paxlovid is one of the most effective treatments available for people with mild-to-moderate COVID, lowering the risk of hospitalization or death significantly.
Because Paxlovid is the only highly effective oral antiviral for the treatment of COVID-19, the expert panel at the National Institutes of Health recommends that when drug interactions can be safely managed, they should not prevent use of Paxlovid.
However, Paxlovid should not be used at the same time as medications that interact strongly with the same liver enzyme Paxlovid relies on to be cleared from the body. The are no commonly used blood cancer drugs that are contraindicated for use at the same time as Paxlovid, however, there are many that have at least some interaction with this liver enzyme.
These drugs include but are not limited to ibrutinib and other BTK inhibitors, venetoclax, vinblastine and vincristine. In these cases, it is best to consult with your physician because he or she may be able to adjust medication dosages for safe administration. Most of the interaction potential for Paxlovid resolves within 2 to 3 days of when the last dose was taken, but may take longer in older persons.
Immunosuppressed patients should speak with their oncology healthcare team about whether getting a repeat PCR test to be sure they have cleared the virus is warranted. If the virus is not cleared after Paxlovid treatment, additional treatment such as convalescent plasma may need to be prescribed.
A monoclonal antibody is a lab-made version of the antibodies your body makes naturally to help fight off infections. As of January 26, 2023, there are no monoclonal antibodies authorized for use in the U.S. to prevent or treat COVID-19 because they are not effective against currently circulating strains.
The company that made Evusheld, a monoclonal antibody that eventually lost effectiveness against newer COVID-19 variants, is researching a new formulation designed to be more broadly active against COVID-19 variants. There is a clinical trial testing the new treatment that is open to people with weaker immune systems. Patients and caregivers can learn more about joining the trial here.
High titer COVID-19 convalescent plasma (CCP) is collected from blood donors who have recovered from COVID-19 infection. Plasma from donors who have not only recovered from COVID, but who also are vaccinated (sometimes called VaxCCP), has extremely high levels of antibodies that so far have been shown to neutralize all known COVID variants. CCP use is recommended for immunocompromised patients by several medical societies, including the Infectious Disease Society of America. It should be given within 8 days of symptom onset. CCP evolves with the virus because recently collected plasma contains antibodies to recently circulating viruses.
Treatment with high titer convalescent plasma is an effective option in situations where other therapies are either not available or no longer effective or cannot be used due to drug interactions. Several recent studies have shown the effectiveness of high-titer plasma in treating immunosuppressed patients (including blood cancer patients) who have had breakthrough infection despite vaccination, and in whom monoclonal antibody and antiviral treatment have not been effective in clearing the virus.
Immunosuppressed patients may benefit from high titer convalescent plasma. Immunosuppressed patients may have breakthrough infection despite appropriate treatment, and this can lead to illness in the affected patient and continued risk of spreading the virus to others. Prolonged infection may also give the virus an opportunity to create variants that can then spread to others.
Talk to your healthcare team if you believe high-titer convalescent plasma is right for you. The U.S. FDA has authorized its use for the treatment of COVID-19 in patients with immunosuppression due to disease or receiving immunosuppressive treatment, either in the outpatient or inpatient setting.
COVID-19 convalescent plasma needs to be ordered by a healthcare professional from a blood bank. If high-titer convalescent plasma is not available locally, your healthcare provider may be able to work with the local blood center to obtain it through the Blood Center of America. Two additional resources for learning about CCP and to help physicians order CCP for their patients are: USCovidPlasma.org and CCPP19.org.
The National Institutes of Health expert panel responsible for developing COVID-19 treatment guidelines has reviewed results from many studies, clinical trials and analyses on vitamin D. At this time, there is insufficient evidence to recommend either for or against the use of vitamin D for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19.
Most of the current studies have significant limitations—such as very small numbers of enrolled patients, lack of consistency in the types of patients studied (for example, with a range of COVID-19 severities), or use of many different medications simultaneously that can alter individual outcomes.
Some observational studies (these types of studies cannot determine whether a medication can cause, prevent or treat an illness) suggest that low vitamin D levels can increase the risk of COVID infection or COVID-related death, but there is no clear evidence that taking vitamin D protects against infection or death.
LLS encourages patients to talk with their healthcare team about their vitamin D levels and whether they should take vitamin D supplements.
With the end of the public health emergency declaration, free treatment is not as widely available as it once was. However, the federal government has set up a Test to Treat initiative to help people get access to COVID-19 treatments at little to no cost. To find locations, go to this site and click the green “Find Locations” button.
LLS COVID-19 PROGRAMS, RESOURCES AND RESEARCH
Through its National Patient Registry, LLS teamed with over 10,000 blood cancer patients to develop the largest data pool providing information about how COVID-19 vaccines work for people with all type of blood cancer. Our results helped policy makers, physicians and patients alike to make better informed decisions about vaccination.
LLS is invested in the work of world-class researchers across the globe to provide answers about how COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccines impact blood cancer patients. For example, LLS-funded researchers are looking at how the course of COVID illness differs in immunocompromised blood cancer patients and whether they would benefit from targeted prevention and treatment options compared to those with normal immune systems.
Because blood cancer patients were not included in the clinical studies leading to authorization of COVID-19 vaccines, LLS is focused on funding research to understand how vaccines work in people with all types of blood cancer. LLS is helping to answer questions such as: Should blood cancer patients get their vaccines on a more compressed schedule? How does antibody response and activation of disease-fighting T-cells differ in people with different types of cancer after vaccination? You can read about current LLS grants for COVID-19 and other research topics here.
LLS is doing its part by ensuring blood cancer patients’ interests are being heard by policymakers involved in the country’s vaccine rollout. A summary of our efforts include the following:
LLS – along with other partner organizations –communicates to the Biden administration the strategies we believe will improve access to the vaccine. We’re also in touch with policymakers in state government.
Some blood cancer patients won’t produce COVID-19 antibodies even after receiving all COVID-19 vaccine doses, making it particularly important for those around them to be vaccinated. Public health measures like vaccine requirements play an important role in reducing the risk of COVID-19 to cancer patients, cancer survivors, and other immunocompromised people. LLS supports proven public health strategies like vaccine requirements, and it opposes policies that undermine vaccine requirements.
In response to concerns about access barriers some immigrants are facing regarding documentation requests prior to receiving COVID-19 vaccination and individuals inappropriately being sent bills for COVID-19 vaccine fees, Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) developed two fact sheets to help both patients and providers better understand their rights, which are available in English and Spanish.
You may or may not have out-of-pocket costs if you get tested for COVID-19 or if you need medicines or other care to treat it. You’ll need to check with your health insurance company about coverage. Here are some tips and resources to get you started:
- Call the toll-free number on the back of your insurance card
- Read about Medicare coverage of coronavirus-related needs
LLS News and Statements on COVID-19 Advancements and Study Results
Study from The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Provides New Information on How Blood Cancer Patients Respond to COVID-19 Vaccines
Largest Study to Date Demonstrates Most Blood Cancer Patients Benefit From a Third Primary Dose of mRNA COVID-19 Vaccine
Study from The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Shows COVID-19 Vaccine is Safe but 25% Of Blood Cancer Patients Do Not Produce Detectable Antibodies
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Launches National Patient Registry to Answer Crucial COVID-19 Questions for Blood Cancer Patients
THE LEUKEMIA & LYMPHOMA SOCIETY LAUNCHES FIRST CLINICAL TRIAL SPECIFICALLY FOR BLOOD CANCER PATIENTS WITH COVID-19
The LLS National Patient Registry, a project of the Michael J. Garil Patient Data Collective:
The LLS National Patient Registry gathers and studies information from patients diagnosed with blood cancers (past or present) to help researchers better understand outcomes and tailor treatments. Within six weeks of COVID vaccines becoming available in the U.S., LLS launched studies as part of the National Patient Registry to assess the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines in people with every type of blood cancer. The links below provide more details about our studies and their results.
COVID-19 Safety Among Blood Cancer Patients (Updated: October 8, 2021; Published: April 23, 2021)
Learn more about the LLS National Patient Registry
The LLS National Patient Registry, a project of the Michael J. Garil Patient Data Collective, is a unique opportunity for blood cancer patients to become citizen scientists by joining with LLS to shape discoveries that can improve the quality of life and care for people living with blood cancer. The registry for COVID-19 is closed.