Covid vaccine and blood cancer
How to book a covid vaccine if you have blood cancer, or live with someone who does
Find out how many covid vaccinations you should have, and how to get them.
Page updated 9 February 2024
Spring boosters 2024
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has announced its advice for the covid-19 vaccine programme for spring.
The JCVI says the following people should be eligible for a spring booster:
- adults aged 75 and over
- residents in a care home for older adults
- individuals aged 6 months and older who are immunosuppressed (as defined in tables 3 or 4 in the COVID-19 chapter of the Green Book). This includes people with blood cancer or a history of blood cancer.
The NHS has not yet announced when the spring booster programme will start. We will update this page when we know more.
Where to get help
If you have questions or need help getting a covid vaccination, call the relevant NHS helpline:
You can also contact our free Support Service on:
How many doses of covid vaccine have people with blood cancer been offered?
The covid vaccine schedule for people with blood cancer up to now has been:
- 1st primary dose – from around Jan 2021
- 2nd primary dose – from around April 2021
- 3rd primary dose – from around September 2021
- 4th dose (1st booster) – from around January 2022
- 5th dose (Spring 2022 booster) – from around April 2022
- 6th dose (Autumn 2022 booster) – from around September 2022
- 7th dose (Spring 2023 booster) – from around April 2023
- 8th dose (Autumn 2023 booster) – from around October 2023
Regardless of which doses you've had so far, you should get your booster doses when they are offered.
Getting re-vaccinated after a stem cell transplant
If you had the covid vaccine before having a stem cell transplant, you will need to be re-vaccinated after your transplant. Your transplant team will give you information on this, including when to have your vaccinations. The NHS recommends you have a course of three primary doses, followed by a booster dose.
NHS England has confirmed that the bivalent vaccines Comirnaty (Pfizer) and Spikevax (Moderna) can be used for both primary and booster vaccinations. Bivalent means the vaccines target two covid variants.
Anthony Nolan has more information about re-vaccination following a stem cell transplant.
Blood cancer and immunosuppression
Most people who are living with blood cancer and many who are in remission from blood cancer have a weakened immune system, which makes it harder to fight off viruses and other bugs. This is called immunosuppression. Immunosuppressed people are at higher risk of getting seriously ill from covid.
That's why, when covid vaccines first become available, people were prioritised for vaccination if they:
- had any type of blood cancer (leukaemia, lymphoma, myeloma, MDS, MPN), whether they were on treatment or not
- were immunosuppressed as a result of blood cancer in the past
- had had a stem cell or bone marrow transplant in the past
- had any other underlying condition that meant they were classed as "clinically vulnerable" or "clinically extremely vulnerable".
Because immunosuppressed people are at higher risk from covid, household contacts (people who live most of the time with someone who is immunosuppressed) and unpaid carers were also prioritised for vaccination.
Going forward, people who are immunosuppressed, including most people with blood cancer, are being offered extra vaccinations. While covid vaccinations may not work as well for immunosuppressed people, there's evidence that repeated doses can offer better protection. People who are severely immunosuppressed may also be eligible for new antiviral treatments if they get covid.
We have more information about research into how effective covid vaccinations are for people with blood cancer.
Support for GPs
If you have any patients affected by blood cancer, you can signpost them to Blood Cancer UK for support and information.
We are also very happy to speak to GPs and other healthcare professionals if helpful - contact us for information about blood cancer and coronavirus.
What are the side effects of the covid vaccine?
Like all vaccines, the covid vaccines can cause side effects, although not everybody gets them.
Most side effects are mild and should go away within a week. Common side effects include:
- a sore arm from the injection
- feeling tired
- a headache
- feeling achy
- mild flu-like symptoms
- feeling or being sick
Each vaccine comes with a patient leaflet that lists all the known side effects.
- Pfizer (Comirnaty) vaccine patient leaflet
- Moderna (Spikevax) vaccine patient leaflet
- Sanofi (VidPrevtyn Beta) vaccine patient leaflet
Healthcare workers who administer the vaccine can tell you about any side effects and are trained in what to watch out for. You will also be asked to wait for 15 minutes after your injection to make sure you are OK before you leave.
Stopping the spread of covid and flu
Practical advice from public health bodies to stop covid and flu spreading includes:
- avoiding contact with others when unwell
- washing hands frequently with soap and water, or using hand sanitiser
- catching coughs and sneezes in a tissue ("catch it, bin it, kill it")
- wearing a face mask if visiting someone with a weakened immune system
- ventilating shared spaces as much as possible
- getting vaccinated if you are eligible.
Join our mailing list for key updates about coronavirus for people with blood cancer, what we're doing to help, and ways you can help, including campaigns you may be interested in.
Support for you
You can also email us if you prefer to get in contact that way. We'll usually get back to you within two working days.
Talk to other people with blood cancer on our Online Community Forum – there is a group for coronavirus questions and support.
You can also find out what's helping other people affected by blood cancer through coronavirus and beyond in our pages on living well with or after blood cancer.
The following companies have provided funding for our coronavirus support, but have had no further input: AbbVie, AstraZeneca, Celgene, Gilead, Incyte, Kyowa Kirin, Novartis, Pfizer, Sanofi, Takeda.