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"My mum’s had the vaccine so why is she still shielding?"

More and more people are being vaccinated against coronavirus, including people with blood cancer. So why does it seem like nothing's changed? We consult our Support Services Team.

Your question:

February 2021

My mum has a chronic blood cancer. She’s been shielding with my dad and my brother since the pandemic started and is still being super careful even though she’s had her first vaccine. She’s generally pretty healthy and she’s only in her 50s. I thought the vaccine would change everything for her. How long does she need to keep shielding? And would it help for my dad and my brother to be vaccinated too?

https://media.bloodcancer.org.uk/images/Bav_screen_in_shot.2e16d0ba.fill-530x395.jpg

Our answer:

The vaccine roll-out certainly brings hope that shielding will end, but your mum is right to stay cautious for now.

People who have blood cancer, or have recently had treatment, tend to have an immune system that’s not as effective as it should be. That’s why they’re at higher risk of serious illness from coronavirus (known as clinically extremely vulnerable) and have been advised to shield. At the moment, we think people with blood cancer will be protected by the vaccine, but that the level of protection will be lower than for other people. Having a second dose will help protect your mum more than just one dose, but it will be up to 12 weeks between her first and second vaccination. Even after her second dose, the current medical advice is that she’ll still need to shield. We need to learn more about how well the vaccine is protecting people with blood cancer, and see infection rates in the community come down, before shielding can stop.

So it’s still important for your mum to be careful about how much contact she has with other people, especially while the number of cases of coronavirus stays high nationally. As more and more people are vaccinated, cases will drop further, so there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Find out more about research into how effective the vaccine will be for people with blood cancer.

Household vaccinations

It would help for your dad and brother to be vaccinated too, as there’s evidence that the vaccination lowers the chance of passing coronavirus on to other people. Unfortunately, household members aren’t prioritised for the vaccine at the moment, unless they are unpaid carers. An unpaid carer is someone who gets Carer’s Allowance, or who is the main carer for someone with a disability (which includes cancer).

If your dad is an unpaid carer, he could get a vaccination in priority group 6. If he’s not a carer but is over 50, he’ll be vaccinated in the appropriate group, between now and the end of April.

Your brother won’t qualify for the vaccination unless he’s a carer or meets the criteria for one of the 9 priority groups because of his health or his job.

We are campaigning for household members of people with blood cancer to be prioritised for the vaccine, which is something you might like to support.

Emotional support

It’s a very difficult situation for everyone in your family and it’s completely understandable that you feel frustrated. How is your mum feeling about shielding for so long? How are you feeling about it? Would it help to talk to someone? Remember that you or anyone in your family can call our Support Services Team free on 0808 2080 888, or email [email protected] if you need a listening ear. We also have information on dealing with uncertainty over the vaccine and the end of shielding which you might find helpful.

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

Dawn, support line worker

Worried about anything or have questions?

Contact our Support Services Team

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