10 September 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.
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 the COVID-19 virus.
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 the primary 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 the primary 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 is likely to be offered to everyone in the new year. This is because the evidence suggests 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 the more about the third primary dose vaccination on the UK’s Government Website.
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 England, Scotland 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.