06 December 2021

Four 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 these 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 four coronavirus vaccines that have been approved for use in the UK – the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, the Moderna vaccine, and the Janssen vaccine which is given as a single dose. Clinical studies involving tens of thousands of people have shown that all 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.

Can COVID-19 vaccines 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 vaccines cause them.

If you’re at higher risk of blood clots (because of a health condition or medication), as a precaution your doctor may recommend you have the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine or the Moderna vaccine .

As with any vaccine or treatment, speak to your doctor 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. They are safe for men having treatment for prostate cancer, including chemotherapy.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca and Janssen vaccines are made by changing different viruses that are both  harmless in humans. The viruses have been changed so that they can't multiply inside people. This means they can't cause illness and are 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.

What is the third COVID-19 vaccine dose?

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has recommended that everyone in the UK over the age of 12 with a severely weakened immune system (immunosuppressed) have a third vaccine dose to help protect them from developing severe COVID-19 symptoms.

Some research has suggested that these severely immunosuppressed individuals may not build up a strong immune response to the COVID-19 vaccination. This means they may be less protected than the rest of the population.

Will I be offered the third dose?

The third dose is advised to anyone over the age of 12 who, at the time of their first or second vaccine dose, were severely immunosuppressed. This includes people with prostate cancer who had a vaccine dose within six months of their immunosuppressive chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatment. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy can weaken your immune system, this means you may not have built up a strong immune response to the first and second vaccinations.

External beam radiotherapy to the prostate shouldn’t affect your immune system. If you’ve had radiotherapy to treat cancer inside your prostate, speak to your GP or consultant about whether you are eligible for a third dose.

Some men with advanced prostate cancer have radiotherapy to relieve bone pain in parts of the body where the cancer has spread. Depending on the bone treated and the dose of radiotherapy, this may have weakened your immune system. If you’ve had radiotherapy to treat advanced prostate cancer you may be offered a third dose.

The third dose will not be offered to all people who are clinically extremely vulnerable. 

Those who are eligible for the third dose will receive a letter from their GP. If you don’t receive a letter from the GP and you think you may be eligible, speak to your GP or hospital medical team.

When will I get the third dose?

The third dose will be given at least 8 weeks after your second dose. This may vary if you’re currently having immunosuppressive treatment for your prostate cancer, for example chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

Your third dose may be delayed until at least two weeks after you finish treatment. If this is not possible, your doctor may decide to give your third dose vaccination during a planned period of time between treatments (treatment holiday). Your medical team will talk to you about this and decide the best time for you.

What vaccine will I get?

People aged 18 and over will be offered either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. The AstraZeneca vaccine may be given to those who previously had this vaccine, or if your doctor thinks it is suitable for you. 

If you are unsure which vaccine you’ll be given, speak to your GP or consultant.

What is the difference between the third dose and a booster dose?

The third dose is only being given to people who are less likely to have had a strong immune response to the first and second dose. The third dose is being offered as a primary COVID-19 vaccination. The first two vaccinations are also part of the primary vaccinations.

A booster jab will be offered to everyone by the end of January 2022. This is to combat the emergence of the Omicron coronavirus variant. There is also evidence to suggest people’s immune response to the primary vaccinations may reduce over time and need a top up.

If you have the third primary dose, you will also be offered the booster dose.

If you have questions about your own situation, speak to your doctor or nurse, or contact our Specialist Nurses. You can read more about the third primary dose vaccination on the UK’s Government Website.

 

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.

Some studies suggest these vaccines may not give cancer patients as much protection against coronavirus as they do in healthy people. This includes people with cancer who aren't having chemotherapy.

But it's important to remember that research is happening continuously to improve our understanding of how effective these vaccines are for 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 can 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.

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 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 and the advice of your medical team, 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).

We also don’t fully understand whether the vaccines stop people carrying and passing on the virus to other people. So 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.