Coronavirus vaccine and pancreatic cancer

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

There are two coronavirus vaccines available in the UK – the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine and the Oxford AstraZeneca
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. People most at risk from coronavirus are being offered the vaccine first. If you are aged over 50 (currently over 55 in Scotland) or at higher risk from coronavirus, you can now get the vaccine. This includes people who are clinically extremely vulnerable, and people with other health conditions that put them at risk.

The NHS are contacting people who are eligible for the vaccine. In England and Northern Ireland, you can also book a vaccine yourself. Read more about who can have the vaccine in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

If you are about to start treatment for pancreatic cancer which may lower your immunity, such as chemotherapy and some radiotherapy and steroids, 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.

If you are an unpaid carer, you can also now get the vaccine. Read more about this in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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.

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?

Both vaccines have been shown to work well in clinical trials, where they have been tested on thousands of people.

The vaccine will protect most people from coronavirus. After you have had the first dose, you should have some protection from coronavirus, although it this may take a couple of weeks. You should continue to follow the guidance to protect yourself from coronavirus, especially if you are at higher risk of getting ill from coronavirus. You will need to have both doses to get the best protection. The second dose is important for longer term protection.

There is a small chance that you could still get coronavirus even if you have had the vaccine, although it should be less severe. And we don’t yet know whether the vaccine will stop you from catching coronavirus and giving it to other people. This means you should still follow social distancing guidance.

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.

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: 29 March 2021