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"I just don’t know how careful to be around my brother!"

Are you aware that the covid vaccine might not work for people with blood cancer? Our Support Service talks about what to do if you're not sure your loved one is fully protected.

Your question:

June 2021

I’ve just found out that my brother may not be protected by the covid vaccinations he’s had. It’s come as a huge shock. We’ve just been following the general guidelines and our families have been spending time together in each other’s houses and going to restaurants. Now I don’t know if that’s safe for him. It was news to my brother too, but he just shrugs and says, “It’s OK, I’m in remission”.

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Our answer:

We’re sorry to hear that you’ve had this shock. A lot of other people have experienced the same thing recently and we’ve written to haematology teams and GPs to make sure they explain to their patients that vaccination may not work as well for them as the rest of the population.

Encourage him to talk to his medical team

We don’t yet know how well the vaccine works for people with different types of blood cancer and at different stages of blood cancer. We hope to get answers to these questions through the research we’re funding. As your brother is in remission, how well the vaccine works for him will depend on how well his immune system has recovered. It generally takes a few months to a year for the immune system to get back to normal after blood cancer treatment, but this depends on the type of blood cancer and the treatment given.

It would be a good idea for your brother to discuss his situation with the people who know his medical history – either his hospital team, or his GP if he’s been discharged from hospital care.

In the meantime, you might want to read our general information about covid vaccine efficacy which we update regularly.

Gauge the level of risk involved

You brother will need to make his own decisions about what he feels is safe for him. But you may both find it helpful to read and talk through our information about coping with risk and uncertainty.

The vaccination programme is making things safer for everyone by protecting a large proportion of the UK population and reducing covid transmission rates. This is good news for people with a history of blood cancer, especially if the adults they have contact with have been vaccinated twice.

Covid cases in the UK are now lower overall, although of course the numbers vary from place to place. You may want to keep an eye on case numbers where you and your brother live using the government’s coronavirus tracker. That will help you gauge the risk of mixing with other people locally, especially if it’s indoors.

Free rapid covid tests have also made it much easier to check if anyone has covid without showing symptoms. These are readily available from pharmacists, so everyone in your family, including any children, could take a test before you see each other. That should give you added reassurance you’re doing what you can to protect your brother.

Consider these ways to lower the risk

There are other practical things you can do, some of which will be much easier during the summer months. You might want to discuss these with your brother and his family:

  • You could agree to meet up outside rather than indoors.
  • If you do meet indoors, keep the doors and windows open as good ventilation helps.
  • Consider limiting the number of people you see outside of your two families if you can.
  • Don’t share food, cutlery and crockery, towels or personal items between your families.

Finally, the familiar covid advice – cleaning your hands frequently, wearing a face mask and staying two metres apart as much as possible – all helps to protect your brother and others who may be vulnerable to covid.

Talk to us

If you know someone with blood cancer and you’d like to talk through your concerns about their risk from coronavirus, get in touch. This is a common worry and a conversation we often have. Call us on 0808 2080 888 or email [email protected]

You can get support from people in a similar situation on our online community forum.

Find out more about supporting someone with blood cancer. Here's our full list of questions on topics you may find helpful.

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Worried about anything or have questions?

If you have any questions, worries, or just need someone to talk to, please don't hesitate to contact our Support Services Team via phone or email.

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