Te Mate Pukupuku me te Mate Korona

Cancer during COVID-19

COVID-19 information for patients and whānau with cancer.

Guidance for clinicians and the COVID-19 Cancer Services Monitoring Reports can be found HERE.

Message for whānau with cancer while COVID-19 is circulating

Health professionals from across the cancer sector have pulled together to make this video for whānau living with cancer during the Omicron outbreak. Much of their advice still holds as we move out of the traffic light system. Our thanks to all those who are working so hard to keep cancer patients safe.

Hei Āhuru Mōwai, Māori Cancer Leadership Aotearoa has worked with Te Aho o Te Kahu and the Cancer Society to produce COVID-19 information for whānau with cancer.

Information for whare (households) with cancer during the Omicron outbreak (PDF 157 KB)

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Links to further general COVID-19 information


The best source of accurate and up-to-date information is available on the Unite against COVID-19 website.

Information about screening and COVID-19 can be found in the National Screening Unit's information for screening providers and the Ministry of Health's cancer and screening services page.

Many conditions and treatments can weaken a person's immune system including:

  • having chemotherapy or radiotherapy
  • bone marrow or organ transplantation
  • some blood cancers.

Having these conditions and treatments can mean you are at a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Information for people at higher risk can be found on the COVID-19 website's prepare and stay safe section.

More information on who is considered at risk and what can be done to manage that risk can be found on the Ministry of Health's webpage for people at higher risk.

There are some simple steps to protect against COVID-19:

If you get a positive COVID-19 test result you should isolate at home and let your doctor know.

It is also important that you also look after your mental wellbeing.

We are working with clinicians, cancer centres, DHBs and our advisory groups to address the issues COVID-19 is creating for people living with cancer.

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Cancer and COVID-19 vaccines

Everyone in Aotearoa New Zealand aged five and over can get a free COVID-19 vaccine now. One of the most important things you can do is to get a vaccination for yourself and your whānau.

Before a COVID-19 vaccine can be administered in New Zealand it must be approved by MedSafe. This provides assurance of its safety, quality and effectiveness. Information about the COVID-19 vaccines in general can be found here.

Below are the answers to some frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 vaccine for whānau affected by cancer.

Are people with cancer more vulnerable to COVID-19 than the general population?

People with cancer are at an increased risk of getting COVID-19 and have a greater risk of serious infection if they do get COVID-19.

What are the side effects of the vaccine for people with cancer?

The general information on side-effects from the COVID-19 vaccine can be found here. There is no evidence that people with cancer experience different or worse side effects than the general population.

Should I get the COVID-19 vaccine if I am currently receiving cancer treatment?

Yes. Talk to your cancer doctor, as depending on what treatment you are on, they may want to time the vaccine to be delivered at a certain point in your treatment cycle.

Will the COVID-19 vaccine affect or interact with cancer treatments?

There is not currently any evidence to suggest that the COVID-19 vaccine interacts with cancer treatments. Decisions around timing of the vaccine are about maximising how effective the vaccine is, rather than concerns around how it will interact with cancer treatments.

I had cancer 5 years ago, is it OK for me to get the vaccine?

If you have finished your cancer treatment and have been discharged from your hospital specialist, you should get the vaccine when it is offered to you. If you have any concerns you can discuss these with your GP.

Who should people with cancer talk to about receiving the COVID-19 vaccine?

We recommend that you talk to your cancer doctor if you have questions or concerns. If you have been discharged from hospital services, we recommend you talk to your GP if you have questions or concerns.

These can be downloaded here: Frequently Asked Questions about the COVID-19 vaccine and cancer (Word 53 KB)

Frequently Asked Questions about the COVID-19 vaccine and cancer (PDF 98 KB)

Do I need a third primary dose of the COVID-19 vaccine?

The Ministry of Health has recommended that individuals aged 12 years and older who are severely immunocompromised receive a third primary dose of Pfizer/BioNTech or AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. Not all cancer patients are recommended to have a third dose, as only some will be severely immunocompromised. Your cancer doctor or your primary care practitioner will use the Ministry of Health criteria to help you find out if you are eligible.

Criteria can be found here.

If I have a third primary dose of the COVID-19 vaccine should I still get a booster after three months?

Yes. The third dose is not considered a booster dose. This means that if you have a third primary dose, you are also eligible for a booster dose after three months.

More information on booster doses can be found here.

What is the difference between a third primary dose and a booster?

A third primary dose is only recommended for people with cancer who are severely immunocompromised. This is to give your immune system a better chance of building protection to COVID-19. Your cancer doctor or primary care practitioner can help you work out if you need a third primary dose.

A booster dose is available to the general population three months after your primary vaccine doses. This is because it is likely that the immunity from the vaccine will slowly reduce over time. Those who have a third primary dose are also eligible for a booster.

Message for whānau with cancer during the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020

When Aotearoa was at COVID-19 Alert Level 4 in 2020 the cancer sector pulled together this video for whānau living with cancer. The messages remain relevant for the 2022 RED traffic light setting.

Content last updated 13 September 2022