The coronavirus vaccine and pancreatic cancer

With all the media around the new coronavirus vaccine, our specialist nurse, Nicci, explains what this means for people with pancreatic cancer.

This blog was published on 17 December 2020. Read the latest about the coronavirus vaccine and what this means for people with pancreatic cancer in our information pages.

Hi, I’m Nicci, one of the specialist nurses at Pancreatic Cancer UK.

With all the media around the new coronavirus vaccine, we know people with pancreatic cancer have questions about what this means for them. I’ll explain what we know at the moment.

The new coronavirus vaccine is being rolled out across the UK through the NHS.

Who will get the vaccine first?

Because there is currently only a limited supply of the vaccine, people who are most at risk from coronavirus are being offered it first. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation advises the government on vaccines, and have advised the order that people will be offered the vaccine, based on risk.

The first people to have the vaccine will be older people living in care homes, frontline health and social care workers, and people over 80. It will then be offered to:

  • people aged over 75
  • people aged over 70, and people who are clinically extremely vulnerable and were shielding
  • people aged over 65
  • people aged 16 to 64 who have an underlying health condition which means they are at higher risk of getting seriously unwell from coronavirus – this includes people with diabetes, people with lowered immunity due to treatments such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy or steroids, and people who have had their spleen removed
  • people aged over 60
  • people aged over 55
  • people aged over 50.

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

How will people get the vaccine?

The NHS will contact you when it is your turn to have the vaccine with information about having it. The NHS have asked that you don’t contact them about it before then.

They will tell you where to go to get the vaccine – this may be at a hospital, vaccine centre or your GP surgery.

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.

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

How well does the vaccine work?

So far, thousands of people have had the vaccine as part of the clinical trials researching it. These showed that it works well in people of all ages and ethnicities, and that it will protect most people from coronavirus.

After having both doses of the vaccine, it may take a few weeks to be fully protected 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. This means you should still follow social distancing guidance.

How safe is the vaccine?

The vaccine has been shown to be safe in the clinical trials, and it had to meet strict safety standards for it to be approved for use in the UK. We also know that it’s 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 it, such as a headache, feeling tired, flu-like symptoms and a mild fever.

Further information about the vaccine

As more people have the vaccine, we will understand more about how well it stops the spread of coronavirus. We will continue to update you if anything changes for people with pancreatic cancer. There is more information about the vaccine on the NHS and GOV.UK websites.

If you have any questions about the vaccine and pancreatic cancer, do get in touch with us on our free Support Line.

An update about Christmas

We wrote last week about the guidance for celebrating Christmas this year. Update 21 December: The government has now changed its guidance about Christmas.

Think carefully about seeing others if you are at higher risk from coronavirus. If you do meet with others, try to keep numbers small – the fewer people you see, the lower the chance of catching coronavirus. You should also think about how far you travel over Christmas. It is better to stay local and avoid travel, and don’t travel from a high risk to a low risk area. And try not to stay away overnight if possible.

Remember that just because the rules may allow you to see more people over Christmas, this doesn’t mean you have to. The best way to stay safe is to spend Christmas with your household.

Our blog from 9 December for more tips about staying safe over Christmas. You will find the most up-to-date information on the latest government advice about Christmas on the GOV.UK website. There is also some slightly different advice for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

We know these decisions are very difficult to make, especially with the guidance changing all the time. Christmas is a special time for many, and it’s natural to want to spend it with people close to you, especially after such a difficult year. Talk to your family and friends about what feels right for you. If you want to speak to our specialist nurses for emotional support, our Support Line is open every day over Christmas from 10am-2pm (except the bank holidays). Call us free on 0808 801 0707 or email us.

Take care and best wishes

Nicci