Te Mate Pukupuku me te Mate Korona

Cancer during COVID-19

Find out more about cancer treatment across the different COVID-19 Alert Levels.

Cancer and COVID-19 vaccines

New Zealand is embarking on a national COVID-19 vaccine roll-out.

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.

Information on the national COVID-19 roll-out strategy can be found here.

Te Aho o Te Kahu has released advice for clinicians on COVID-19 vaccines and cancer. This guidance document has been updated in June 2021 to include further evidence, rollout information, importance of timing for second dose of vaccine and advice on lymphoedema.

We have also provided some answers to frequently asked questions for whānau living with cancer.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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.

When will people with cancer be able to receive a COVID-19 vaccine?

People with cancer are in Group 3. Group 3 includes:

  • people over the age of 65 years
  • people under the age of 65 years who have any cancer, excluding basal and squamous skin cancers if not invasive

Information on the timing of the roll out is on the Ministry of Health website.

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:

COVID-19 Alert Levels

We understand you and your whānau may feel unsettled as we move between different Alert Levels to manage the COVID-19 pandemic in New Zealand.

It is OK to be worried, but please know that cancer centres around the country are prepared to continue delivering essential cancer services at all alert levels. These are explained further here:

At Alert Level 1

  • outpatient appointments may be in person or could still be virtual (e.g., phone conversation or video call); you will be contacted by your cancer centre with the details
  • if you have a scan, or treatment, scheduled, please attend this as normal
  • if you have concerns about travelling or coming to the hospital because of your health, please contact your cancer centre before your appointment or treatment
  • if you are unwell, please phone your cancer centre to let them know.

At Alert Level 2

At Level 2, cancer centres must follow the physical distancing guidelines which may impact how treatment is delivered. It is extremely important that we protect people living with cancer from the risk of catching COVID-19. You will notice:

  • physical distancing guidelines will be in place
  • outpatient appointments may be in person or virtual (eg, phone conversation or video call), you will be contacted by your cancer centre with the details
  • if you have treatment or a scan scheduled, please attend this as normal (unless you have been contacted by your cancer centre with alternative arrangements)
  • if you have concerns about travelling or coming to hospital because of your health, please contact your cancer centre before your appointment or treatment
  • if you are unwell, please phone your cancer centre to let them know.

It is still safe to come to the hospital. If you are sick the hospital is still the safest place to be.

At Alert Level 3

At Level 3, cancer centres must follow the physical distancing guidelines which may impact how treatment is delivered. It is extremely important that we protect people living with cancer from the risk of catching COVID-19. You will notice:

  • hospitals will be looking to run outpatient appointments virtually where possible (eg, phone conversation or video call). You will be contacted by your cancer centre with the details
  • if you have treatment or a scan scheduled, please attend this as normal
  • if you have concerns about travelling or coming to hospital because of your health, please contact your cancer centre before your appointment or treatment
  • if you are unwell, please phone your cancer centre to let them know
  • if you are unwell with COVID-19 symptoms, please contact your doctor to discuss being tested for COVID-19.

It is safe to come to the hospital. If you are sick the hospital is still the safest place to be.

General COVID-19 information

The best source of accurate and up-to-date information about COVID-19 is available on the Ministry of Health website.

These uncertain times can affect your mental wellbeing. It’s important to remember that if you aren’t feeling good, there are many different types of help available. Information and tools are available at Mental health and wellbeing resources.

People with reduced immunity, including some people living with cancer and those undergoing chemotherapy, are at a higher risk from COVID-19. Information on who is considered at risk and what can be done to manage that risk can be found at Advice for higher risk people.

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

  • keep your distance from other people in public
  • wash your hands regularly.
  • sneeze and cough into your elbow
  • keep a track of where you have been and who you have seen
  • if you are sick stay at home and call your cancer centre
  • if you are sick with COVID-19 symptoms ring your doctor or Healthline.

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.