8 January 2021

Three vaccines against coronavirus (COVID-19) have now been approved for use in the UK.

If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with prostate cancer, you may have some specific questions about the vaccines. The information on this page aims to answer these questions.

If you have questions about your own situation, speak to your doctor or nurse, or contact our Specialist Nurses.

Are COVID-19 vaccines safe for men with prostate cancer?

There are currently three coronavirus vaccines that have been approved for use in the UK – the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, and the Moderna vaccine. Clinical studies involving tens of thousands of people have shown that all three vaccines are safe, and there have been no serious safety concerns.

A small number of people with a history of serious allergies have had a severe reaction, called ‘anaphylaxis’, immediately after receiving the Pfizer/BioNTech or the Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. Anaphylaxis can be a rare side effect of any vaccine, and all health professionals who give vaccines have been trained to treat it. However, because of this risk, these vaccines may not be suitable for people with a history of anaphylaxis caused by a food or medicine allergy.

If you’ve had a severe allergic reaction in the past, it’s very important to discuss this with your GP before having a COVID-19 vaccine.

Are the COVID-19 vaccines safe for men having chemotherapy?

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and the Moderna vaccine do not contain a live virus, so you can’t catch COVID-19 from these vaccines and they are safe for men having treatment for prostate cancer, including chemotherapy.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is made by changing a virus that causes the common cold in chimpanzees, but that is harmless in humans. The virus has been changed so that it can't multiply inside people. This means it can't cause illness and is safe for people having treatments that weaken the immune system, such as chemotherapy. 

However, you should still talk to your medical team about whether to have the vaccine if you’re having chemotherapy.

Will the vaccine stop me getting coronavirus?

All three COVID-19 vaccines that have been approved for use in the UK are effective at protecting against coronavirus. But we don’t yet know how long they work for. Most people who receive two doses of any of these vaccines will be protected against the virus. You may not be protected until at least seven days after you receive your second injection.

As with any vaccine, there is still a small risk of catching the virus afterwards – but the symptoms should be less severe.

Will it work if I’m having chemotherapy?

We don’t yet know how well the vaccines work in people with a weak immune system, including men having chemotherapy to treat prostate cancer. This is because the vaccines haven't been tested in people having chemotherapy or other medicines that weaken the immune system.

If you’re having chemotherapy, the COVID-19 vaccine may not give you as much protection against coronavirus as usual. But it may still be better than not having the vaccine at all.

Speak to your doctor before having the COVID-19 vaccine and remind them that you’re having chemotherapy. They can help you decide whether to have the vaccine. If you do have the vaccine, your doctor will probably arrange for you to have each dose at a particular point in your chemotherapy treatment cycle. Your immune system is likely to be strongest immediately before you start a new treatment cycle.

Should I have the COVID-19 vaccine?

This is a personal decision, and only you can decide whether to have the vaccine. But it is the best way to protect yourself against severe COVID-19 illness.

There is a lot of information on the internet about vaccines and it’s hard to know which information to trust. You should be able to find the most up-to-date information about COVID-19 vaccines on the NHS website.

It may help to talk to your family or friends if you’re not sure what to do. Your doctor or nurse can also talk to you about the vaccine and help you decide what’s right for you.

When can I have the vaccine?

The vaccine is being offered to people based on their risk from coronavirus. Over time, more and more people will be invited to have the vaccine. You can read more about the priority groups, and who is currently eligible for the vaccine, on the NHS website.

The NHS will contact you when you’re able to have the vaccine. Don’t try to book an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine before then, as your GP surgery won’t be able to give you one.

I’ve already had a flu jab – do I still need the COVID-19 vaccine?

The flu jab doesn’t protect against coronavirus. To protect yourself against the flu and coronavirus, you need to have both the flu vaccine and the new COVID-19 vaccine.

You won’t be able to have the flu and COVID-19 vaccines at the same appointment – you’ll need to leave at least a week in-between, to ensure they both work properly.

Read more about having the flu jab if you have prostate cancer.

Should I still shield after I’ve had the COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes. For now, you should continue to shield (in England) or take extra care (in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland), even after you’ve had the vaccine. The people you live with should continue following the guidance for the general population.

There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, we don’t yet know how well the vaccines work in people with a weak immune system (for example, men having chemotherapy to treat prostate cancer). Although thousands of people received the vaccines in clinical trials, researchers haven’t specifically tested the vaccines in people having chemotherapy or other medicines that weaken the immune system.

We also don’t fully understand whether the vaccines stop people carrying and passing on the virus. So until we know more from research, it’s important to continue following government guidance, even after you’ve had the vaccine.