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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:

April 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 the number of coronavirus cases will continue to drop, 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 were advised to shield.

At the moment, we don't know how effective the vaccine is for people with blood cancer. We think it will offer some level of protection, 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 take extra care. We need to learn more about how well the vaccine protects people with blood cancer, and see infection rates in the community drop to the lowest levels, before people with blood cancer can stop taking extra precautions.

So it’s still important for your mum to carry on being careful about how much contact she has with other people. As more and more people are vaccinated, cases will drop further, so there is light at the end of the tunnel.

We have information about research into how effective the vaccine will be for people with blood cancer.

Vaccinations for household contacts

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. The government and the NHS in England and Wales are now saying that household contacts of people who are severely immunosuppressed can be prioritised for the vaccine. People who are severely immunosuppressed includes people with a history of blood cancer. A household contact is anyone who shares a living space most of the time with someone who’s severely immunosuppressed.

This means that if your dad and your brother live in England or Wales and haven’t already had the vaccine, they can get it now. Your brother would need to be aged 16 or over, as coronavirus vaccination isn't currently recommended for children aged under 16.

Find out more about how to get the vaccine as a household contact of someone with blood cancer.

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?

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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