What is it about?

Hematologic cancers are cancers that affect the blood and immune system. Some of these conditions and their treatments weaken the body's immunity. Thus, patients with these cancers find it difficult to fight infections. Hence, while most healthy people remain protected against COVID-19 after vaccination, patients with hematologic cancers are less protected. Now, while most healthy people generate a sufficiently large number of antibodies (specific proteins that help immune cells fight infections) in response to COVID-19 vaccination, this is not the case among people with hematologic cancers. Because these patients have a weak immune response, they do not produce enough antibodies. Hence, while healthy people remain protected against COVID-19 after vaccination, patients with hematologic cancers do not. This means they need extra protection against COVID-19 infections. A group of researchers from the USA set out to find out what can be done to protect patients with hematologic cancers from COVID-19. For this, they conducted a thorough review of studies and recommended strategies to protect patients with hematologic cancers during the pandemic. First, they recommended giving COVID-19 vaccines to these patients prior to cancer therapy. Second, they said that vaccination should be compulsory in healthcare workers and adult caretakers. Lastly, they suggested testing higher doses and repeated booster shots of the COVID-19 vaccine among these patients. Governments should also enable a system to monitor people receiving immune-suppressing medications. These people and their caretakers should be regularly tested for COVID-19. This will help public health efforts to control disease spread.

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Why is it important?

Adopting the right measures to safeguard the health of people with hematologic cancers is critical. The strategies proposed in this paper could help blood cancer patients with their safety and health, as well as to contain the spread of the pandemic. KEY TAKEAWAY: Patients with certain types of hematologic cancers are relatively more susceptible to COVID-19 and other viral infections. They need additional protective measures to ensure their safety and health. They also need to be monitored to ensure containment of COVID-19.

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This page is a summary of: How to Provide the Needed Protection from COVID-19 to Patients with Hematologic Malignancies, Blood Cancer Discovery, September 2021, American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), DOI: 10.1158/2643-3230.bcd-21-0166.
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