ASCO Partners With American Cancer Society to Recommend Prioritization of COVID-19 Vaccine for Cancer Patients

February 20, 2021
Sara Karlovitch

The American Society of Clinical Oncology and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network is urging state governments to prioritize patients with cancer in the coronavirus disease vaccine distribution.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) is urging state governments to prioritize patients with cancer in the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine distribution, according to a press release by the organization.1

Patients with cancer have a higher risk of contracting severe COVID-19 and are more likely to have a worse outcome. In December 2020, the CDC established nonbinding guidelines for the prioritization of the vaccine and suggested that cancer patients be included in phase 1 distribution. However, states including Colorado and Florida have chosen not to follow the CDC’s recommendations and signaled that patients with cancer will be included on lower-priority tiers.1

Concern is growing that patients with cancer have limited access to the vaccine and that distribution has been uneven. According to ASCO and ACS CAN, many eligible patients with cancer are unable to receive a vaccine due to lack of transportation, a computer to make the appointment, or other crucial services.1

“While evidence is still emerging about the nature and severity of illness caused by this novel virus, there have been numerous studies examining the risk of severe COVID-19 disease or death from COVID-19 infection in individuals with a history of cancer. One meta-analysis reported that individuals with a history of cancer had 1.35-times higher odds of COVID-related death compared to individuals without cancer,” wrote ASCO and ACS CAN in their letter to state governors.2

The organization mentioned that the odds ratio for risk of severe COVID-19 disease or death from COVID-19 infection in individuals with a history of cancer was 1.35, 95% CI 1.17-1.55). The letter also highlighted that in a meta-analysis, the COVID-19-related risk of death in those with a cancer history was 2.31-times higher (95% CI 1.80-2.91) compared with individuals with no cancer history.1 

The lack of a unified distribution plan as well as availability concerns have resulted in an uneven distribution. In Colorado, patients with only 1 high-risk condition have been placed in phase 2 and Florida has placed the most emphasis on patients 65 years old or older. According to the groups, this means younger patients with high-risk medical conditions are moved to lower priority tiers.1

“We’re hearing directly from our patients with cancer that they are extremely concerned about not having access to the COVID-19 vaccine. While we understand that supplies are still limited, patients with cancer must be prioritized in distribution plans, as recommended by the CDC,” Monica M. Bertagnolli, MD, FACS, FASCO, chair of the Association for Clinical Oncology Board tole Targeted Oncology, in an interview. “Patients in active treatment for cancer have worse COVID-19 outcomes, and all individuals with any history of cancer are at a higher risk of severe disease and mortality from the virus compared to the general population. We’re urging each and every state governor to follow recommendations from the CDC and make sure that people with cancer are prioritized in their COVID-19 vaccine distribution plans, ”she added.

REFERENCE:
1. States Must Include Patients with Cancer on COVID-19 Vaccine Priority List February 17, 2021; Washington DC. Accessed February 19, 2021. https://www.asco.org/about-asco/press-center/news-releases/states-must-include-patients-cancer-covid-19-vaccine-priority
2. Letter by ASCO and ACS CAN to State Governors. February 17, 2021; Washington DC. Accessed February 19, 2021. https://www.asco.org/sites/new-www.asco.org/files/content-files/advocacy-and-policy/documents/2021-ASCO-ACSCAN-vaccine-letter.pdf?cid=DM7023&bid=70744243

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