Opinion post. Please note this post is about the author and should not be considered a recommendation for you to get the COVID-19 vaccine. It’s based on my own research, my own condition and my own decision derived from my own analysis of any perceived risks to my own situation.
I’m confident the independent UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has met strict standards of safety, quality and effectiveness, the UK is known for its thoroughness (as are many other countries). In UK, any coronavirus vaccine that is approved must go through all the clinical trials and safety checks all other licensed medicines go through. The MHRA follows international standards of safety. At the time of writing (17th Dec 2020), only the Pfizer vaccine (BNT162b2) has gone through UK approvals but others are said to be close to an approval decision. The Pfizer vaccine has since been approved in other countries, including USA, Canada, Mexico, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. An announcement from the EMA (covering all EU countries) is expected within the next 7 days). On 19th Dec 2020, the US FDA approved a second vaccine – the Moderna
Moderna’s and Pfizer’s are mRNA vaccines, and AstraZeneca’s and Johnson & Johnson’s are non-replicating vectored vaccines, i.e. they are not live vaccines. According to the NHS website, the COVID-19 vaccine does not contain any animal products or egg. The MHRA approval stated “It was concluded that BNT162b2 has been shown to be effective in the prevention of COVID-19. Furthermore, the side effects observed with use of this vaccine are considered to be similar to those seen with other vaccines. Therefore, the MHRA concluded that the benefits are greater than the risks and recommended that this medicine can be authorised for temporary supply during the COVID-19 pandemic”. See your own national approval organisations (as applicable) for their wording.
Cleary there cannot be a separate trial of every single vaccine focussed on every single type of cancer or indeed, every single medical condition. Nor can they be separate clinical trials for every single vaccine just to assess contraindications for specific drugs, the approvals process would never end and nothing would be approved. What I do know is that the clinical trial and those vaccinated to date come from a wide range of people in the population across the world – young (16+), old, some with serious medical conditions. The UK MHRA approval stated “BNT162b2 has been studied in approximately 43,000 individuals 16 years of age and older who were equally allocated to the vaccine or a placebo. Those who received vaccination with BNT162b2 had a reduction in the rate of COVID-19 illness compared to those who received placebo (8 cases of COVID-19 illness in the vaccinated group compared to 162 cases in the placebo group). These results were observed 7 days following the second dose in study participants with no evidence of prior SARS-CoV-2 infection. A similar benefit of the vaccine was observed in subjects with one or more other medical conditions that increase the risk of severe COVID-19 disease, such as obesity, hypertension, diabetes, or asthma”.
If you look at the flu vaccine, the side effects are known and the limits on who should get the flu vaccine are also well known. To date, the side effects of the approved vaccine are said to be similar to the flu vaccine and there is caution cited in those who have a history of allergic reactions, in the same way as it is for the flu vaccine.
I’m a metastatic cancer patient diagnosed in 2010. The only anti-cancer treatment I currently receive is Somatuline Autogel (Lanreotide) and I’m in generally good health with few comorbidities. I can see many questions being asked, specifically by people with the same condition, albeit Neuroendocrine Cancer is a heterogenous grouping of different cancer types. It’s right that people ask questions but it’s clear that no answer can be 100% until after they are widely distributed, e.g. How long will the vaccine take to create immunity? How long will the immunity last? Is a vaccinated person still able to transmit the virus? How will I know the vaccine works for me? This is why we all need to remain vigilant after receiving the vaccine and life may not get back to normal until most of us have had it and scientists are able to assess the effect of mass vaccination in terms of longer term efficacy and safety.
I’m receiving many messages and many people are asking unanswerable questions on my social media. Please do not ask me if it’s OK for you to get the virus; or if it’s OK to take alongside a particular medication, even though my general opinion is that it will not cause any serous harm for the vast majority of civilization including cancer patients – hey, it might even save your life and the lives of others. I simply don’t know about YOU, and you should not expect me to, and not only because I’m not a doctor. These questions should be directed at your own doctors as they are familiar with your entire medical history and will have a much greater understanding of these concerns. I’m hoping the various scientific NET organisations UKINETS/ENETS/NANETS etc) will soon make statements to reassure and/or guide NET patients accordingly. In the absence of any clarity, I’m currently following the Cancer Research UK science blog here.
One thing I’m quite clear about, based on my own situation, I’m currently more likely to die from the effects of coronavirus than I am from my cancer. To me, that benefit outweighs any risk. For that reason, I’ll be getting the vaccine as soon as I’m called forward in my turn on the UK priority lists.
You may wish to read the words of Dr Mark Lewis, an Oncologist and NET patient (with MEN1) and see him getting his vaccine – click here.
Please read my Disclaimer – click here
Thanks for reading