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Cancer Care and COVID-19

Information and guidance on cancer and screening services during the COVID-19 response.

Impact of COVID-19 on cancer services in 2021

With community transmission of the Delta variant of COVID-19 from August 2021, Te Aho o Te Kahu is once again monitoring the impact of COVID-19 on cancer services. These reports use available DHB data to rapidly measure the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on cancer care. The ongoing monthly reports (the first of which will be available at the end of November) enable recovery tracking and DHB support.

Report for the period ending August 2021

This report found that cancer treatment services were largely maintained during the August 2021 COVID-19 lockdown. However, there was a disruption to diagnostic services, contributing to a 9% reduction in new cancer diagnoses. In general, the disruptions to the cancer care pathway have impacted Māori less than non-Māori.

COVID-19 and cancer services to end August 2021 (Word 4.1MB)

COVID-19 and cancer services to end August 2021 (PDF 4.2MB)

Report for the period ending September 2021

This report found publicly funded cancer treatment services continued during the 2021 COVID-19 lockdown. The dip in cancer registrations seen during August 2021 has resolved, with an increase in new diagnoses of cancer in September 2021. There was some disruption to diagnostic procedures, most notably in the Auckland region. However, the overall impact of COVID-19 on diagnoses is considerably smaller and shorter-lived than the disruption seen in April and May 2020. To date, COVID-19 does not appear to have increased inequities in access to cancer services for Māori.

COVID-19 and cancer services to end September 2021 (Word 5MB)

COVID-19 and cancer services to end September 2021 (PDF 5MB)

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 initially released advice for clinicians on COVID-19 vaccines and cancer in March 2021. Version 2 was released in June 2021 (updates included further evidence, rollout information, importance of timing for second dose of vaccine and advice on lymphoedema). In July 2021 Version 3 was released (updated information on imaging).

Version 4 (below) was released in August 2021 and includes updated advice on vaccination in the context of B-cell depleting therapy and stem cell transplantation.

Advice for clinicians on COVID-19 vaccines and cancer: Version 4 (Word 148 KB)

Advice for clinicians on COVID-19 vaccines and cancer: Version 4 (PDF 408 KB)

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: 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)

COVID-19 Reports

This series of reports analyses the impact of COVID-19 on cancer services at both a national and DHB level. The initial report rapidly measured the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on cancer care. The ongoing monthly reports enable recovery tracking and DHB support.

Initial Impact of COVID-19 on Cancer Services Report 2020

This report found that cancer treatment services were largely maintained during the COVID-19 lockdown. This was the result of a rapid collective response from the cancer sector across New Zealand. However, there was a large disruption to diagnostic services, contributing to a significant reduction in new cancer diagnoses. In general, the disruptions to the cancer care pathway have not increased inequities for Māori to date.

COVID-19 and Cancer Reports to End May 2020

These reports shows an increase in new registrations and diagnostic procedures in May compared to April 2020. The overall number of diagnostic procedures and new cancer registrations in 2020 remains lower than 2019. The disruptions to diagnostic services seen in April 2020 are now showing up in medical oncology, radiation oncology and haematology services, with fewer attendances in May.

Broken down by DHB:
Nationally:

COVID-19 and Cancer Report to End June 2020

There has been a substantial increase in new cancer registrations and diagnostic procedures in June compared to May 2020. This report shows that we are catching up on cancer registrations from the lockdown period. The overall number of diagnostic procedures and new cancer registrations in 2020 remains lower than 2019. Cancer treatment services – surgery, medical oncology, radiation oncology and haematology – continued during the COVID-19 lockdown and continue to be delivered at pre-COVID volumes.

COVID-19 and Cancer Report to End July 2020

There continues to be an increase in new cancer registrations and diagnostic procedures in July 2020. This report shows that we are continuing to catch up on the dip in cancer registrations seen over the lockdown period. The overall number of diagnostic procedures and new cancer registrations in 2020 remains somewhat lower than 2019, but the gap continues to close. Cancer treatment services – surgery, medical oncology, radiation oncology and haematology – continued during the COVID-19 lockdown and continue to be delivered at pre-COVID volumes in the months since.

COVID-19 and Cancer Report to End August 2020

There continues to be an increase in new cancer registrations in August 2020. This report shows we have nearly caught up on the dip in cancer registrations seen over the lockdown period. Cancer treatment services – surgery, medical oncology, radiation oncology and haematology – continued during the COVID-19 lockdown and continue to be delivered at pre-COVID volumes in the months since.

COVID-19 and Cancer Report to End October 2020

There has now been the same number of new cancer diagnoses made in 2020 as were made in 2019. In general, the COVID-19 response does not appear to have increased inequities in the cancer system; however, the concerning exception is lung cancer. This report includes a section looking at lung cancer in more detail, aiming to describe the inequities in detail and consider what the potential drivers of these inequities are.