Coronavirus vaccine and pancreatic cancer

Find out about the coronavirus vaccine and what this means for people with pancreatic cancer.

There are three coronavirus vaccines available in the UK – the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine, the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, and the Moderna vaccine.

This information was accurate when it was published, and we update it regularly, but things are changing quickly. Check the current situation in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Who can have the coronavirus vaccine?

The coronavirus vaccine is being rolled out across the UK through the NHS. The vaccine has been offered to everyone over the age of 18. If you are at higher risk from coronavirus but haven’t yet had the vaccine, get in touch with the NHS in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

The NHS are contacting people who are eligible for the vaccine. You can also book a vaccine yourself.

Some treatments for pancreatic cancer, such as chemotherapy and some radiotherapy and steroids, may lower your immunity. If you have not yet had the vaccine and are about to start any of these treatments, your doctors should consider giving you the vaccine before you start the treatment. You should ideally have the vaccine two weeks before treatment, and if possible should have both doses of the vaccine. Your doctor will need to consider the risk of delaying the cancer treatment, compared to the risk from coronavirus. If you are due to start any of these treatments, speak to your doctor about whether you should have the vaccine.

It is important that you have the vaccine when it is offered to you, as it should protect you from coronavirus.

You will need to have 2 doses of the vaccine. It is important that you have the second dose for the vaccine to work properly. The second dose should be the same type of vaccine as the first dose.

  • For the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine, you should have the second dose between 3 and 12 weeks after the first.
  • For the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, you should have the second dose between 4 and 12 weeks after the first.
  • for the Moderna vaccine, you should have the second dose 28 days after the first dose.

Where will I have the vaccine?

You will be told where to go to get the vaccine when you book it. This may be at a hospital, vaccine centre or your GP surgery.

How well does the vaccine work?

The vaccines have been shown to work well in clinical trials, where they have been tested on thousands of people. Analysis by Public Health England shows that all the vaccines are also effective against the Delta variant of COVID-19.

The vaccine will protect most people from coronavirus, including clinically vulnerable people. You will need to have both doses to get the best protection. A study of 1 million people by Public Health England showed that the vaccine was more effective in people at higher risk from coronavirus after both doses. So it is very important to get both doses of the vaccine.

You should continue to follow the guidance to protect yourself from coronavirus, especially if you are at higher risk of getting ill from coronavirus. There is a small chance that you could still get coronavirus even if you have had the vaccine, although it should be less severe.

The NHS plans to provide booster vaccines from September 2021. These will help to make sure you stay protected from coronavirus, including new variants. People who are more vulnerable to serious infection are likely to be prioritised for a booster.

How safe is the vaccine?

The vaccines have been shown to be safe in the clinical trials. For a vaccine to be approved for use in the UK, it has to meet strict safety standards. The vaccines are safe for people having treatments that affect their immune system, such as chemotherapy. Tell the person giving you the vaccine about any cancer treatments you are having.

You can’t catch coronavirus from the vaccine. Some people may have mild side effects from the vaccine, such as a headache, feeling tired, general aches or mild flu-like symptoms.

Anybody who has previously has a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to a vaccine, some medicines or household products may not be able to have the vaccine. Tell staff before you are vaccinated if you have ever had a serious allergic reaction.

There is more information about the vaccine on the NHS website.

If you have any questions about the vaccine and pancreatic cancer, you can speak to our specialist nurses on our free Support Line.

Speak to our specialist nurses
Specialist nurse Rachel

Updated: 19 July 2021