14 April 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 for the overwhelming majority of people.

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.

Does the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine cause blood clots?

Recent research suggests a possible link between the Oxford AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine and extremely rare blood clots. But these blood clots can happen naturally, so more research is needed before we know whether the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine causes them.

If you’ve already had your first dose of the Oxford AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, and didn’t experience these rare blood clots, scientists believe it’s safe for you to have your second dose.

If you haven’t had your first dose and you’re at higher risk of blood clots (because of a health condition or medication), as a precaution your doctor may recommend the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine or the Moderna vaccine instead. Anyone who experienced these rare blood clots after their first dose will be offered a different vaccine for their second dose.

As with any vaccine or treatment, speak to your doctor, pharmacist or nurse if you get any unusual side effects after 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?

Most people who receive two doses of any of the COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the UK will be protected against severe illness from coronavirus. But you may not be protected until at least seven days after your second injection. And we don’t yet know how long the vaccines work for. 

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 have only been tested in a small number of people having chemotherapy or other medicines that weaken the immune system.

A recent study suggests the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine may not give people with cancer as much protection against coronavirus as it does in healthy people. This includes people with cancer who aren't having chemotherapy.

But it's important to remember that this was just one study, involving a small number of people. We need more research before we can know for certain how well the vaccine works in people with cancer. Even if the vaccine doesn’t give full protection in some people, it may still be better than not having it 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, who is currently eligible for the vaccine, and how to book an appointment for the vaccine on the relevant NHS website for EnglandScotland or Wales, or the HSC website for Northern Ireland.

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.

Do I still need to be careful after my COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes. You should continue to follow government guidance, even after you’ve had the vaccine.

There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, we don’t know for certain 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 have only tested the vaccines in a small number of people receiving cancer treatments.

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.

Find out more about the latest guidance for men with prostate cancer.