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More Questions and Answers about the COVID-19 Vaccine

More Questions and Answers about the COVID-19 Vaccine

There are still many questions about the COVID-19 vaccine as the State rolls out the first doses to certain populations. Washington State has determined several phases – 1A through 4B – outlining who will receive the vaccine when.

Washington has officially entered phase 1B, which includes everyone aged 65 and older and people over 50 years old who live in multigenerational households, such as with their grandchildren. The next phase, 1B Tier 2, has not been announced yet but will include other high-risk populations over 50 years old such as teachers and grocery store clerks.

We get a lot of questions from our patients about when they can expect to receive the vaccine. At the Center, we have been able to schedule some of our patients to receive the vaccine. Officially, people with underlying conditions such as cancer fall into phase 1B Tier 3, slated to begin in March.

Our Associate Administrator, Lindsay Knapp, says: "We are actively screening for patients and caregivers that meet the criteria set forth by Washington Department of Health 1A and 1B groups. For those who qualify, we are assisting with scheduling through Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. To determine when you or your loved ones qualify for the vaccine, and to locate vaccination sites, visit: findyourphasewa.org."

While many are eager to get the COVID-19 vaccine, there has been some concern from patients over the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, particularly for populations who are immunocompromised and unsure how it may impact them. However, based on available scientific evidence, Medical Director Dr. Jing Zeng recommends that most cancer patients should receive the vaccine as soon as they are eligible. 

“Having cancer may increase susceptibility to COVID-19 if you are exposed, which is why receiving the vaccine is so important. Patients should check in with their care team before receiving the vaccine, especially if they have known allergies to vaccines, have experienced severe allergic reactions in the past, are actively receiving chemotherapy, or if they recently tested positive for COVID-19. There are no concerns that the vaccine could give cancer patients COVID-19; it is possible that the vaccine maybe be less effective in patients who are severely immune suppressed.”

Unfortunately, it is still unknown when the population at large will receive the vaccine. "The reality is, we just do not have enough vaccines for everyone who needs it right now," says Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah. Meanwhile, it is essential to keep following the COVID-19 safety guidelines. We ask that our patients take a moment to read our Center's requirements here: https://www.sccaprotontherapy.com/learn-more/covid-19-information, easily accessed from the top of our Center website. Masks MUST be worn at all times while at the Center. Importantly, to minimize the risk of COVID-19, visitors are not allowed to accompany patients for their treatments unless they are an essential caregiver (ask your Care Team if you have questions).

"We’re disappointed that we have to limit loved ones from accompanying our patients,” says April Clements, Patient Services Manager. “It goes against our nature as a Center and staff. Anyone who has ever seen our lobby understands the welcoming environment we have worked so hard to create. However, first and foremost it needs be safe. One solution may be to include loved ones in weekly doctor visits via telehealth, phone, or other technologies. This is a great way to have your loved ones be part of your care during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

It is imperative to stay vigilant now that there are COVID-19 variants around the world. According to Healthline from January 20, “The [UK] variant isn’t thought to cause a more severe illness or diminish the efficacy of the vaccines. But epidemiological evidence suggests it’s up to 50 percent more transmissible than other variants going around.” This means more people could be exposed and hospitalized, overwhelming our already strained healthcare system. Since this variant has arrived in the United States, extra precautions are more important than ever, especially for those diagnosed with cancer and those caring for them. Please let us know if you have further questions about precautions the Center is taking, or how you can help make a difference while with us.