Vaccine updates for women with ovarian cancer

Here we address some of your questions about what the development of coronavirus vaccinations means for you.

The UK Government have approved two Covid-19 vaccines for use in the UK: Pfizer/BioNtech’s and Oxford University/AstraZeneca. These decisions follow positive early results for both vaccines from a number of clinical trials (research studies that test new drugs) involving over tens of thousands of people across the world.

If you have a diagnosis of ovarian cancer and are considered clinically extremely vulnerable (are at high risk of severe illness from Covid-19), it's understandable that you'll have questions around what this means for you. 

Information about this vaccine is still new and we expect further details in the coming weeks. We'll continue to update this page as new information is published.

This information is up to date as of 1 February 2021.

Will women with ovarian cancer be eligible for the vaccine?

On 2 December the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), who advise UK health departments on immunisation, published a list of Covid-19 vaccination priority groups. As the risk of severe illness from having Covid-19 increases with age, prioritisation is largely based on age. With group 1 being the highest priority, the list is as follows:

  1. residents in a care home for older adults and their carers
  2. all those 80 years of age and over and frontline health and social care workers
  3. all those 75 years of age and over
  4. all those 70 years of age and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals*
  5. all those 65 years of age and over
  6. all individuals aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality
  7. all those 60 years of age and over
  8. all those 55 years of age and over
  9. all those 50 years of age and over

*People with a diagnosis of ovarian cancer are considered clinically extremely vulnerable if they:

  • are currently having chemotherapy,
  • are due to start having chemotherapy or surgery,
  • are currently having other target cancer treatments that can affect the immune system (such as PARP inhibitors – olaparib, niraparib and rucaparib), or they
  • are currently having immunotherapy treatment.

Recently the vaccine has started to be offered to priority group 4. If you're in any of these situations that mean you're considered clinically extremely vulnerable then you should check with your clinical team and GP that you're on the Shielded Patients List. If you aren't on the list but feel you should be, you can ask to be added.

Read the JCVI report for Covid-19 priority groups

How will I be able to access the vaccine?

As the vaccination programme continues to be rolled out, it is currently available in some hospitals and vaccination centres run by GPs. When you are eligible for the vaccine you will be contacted by the NHS and invited to book an appointment to have it. It is not available privately and is free. It is your decision whether you have the vaccine.

If you have any questions or concerns about having the vaccination or if you are not sure whether you should receive it, then you should discuss these with your clinical team.

Read more about how the vaccines are being rolled out across the UK.

How effective is the vaccine in people who are immunocompromised?

A number of clinical trials (research studies into new drugs) showed early results that this vaccine is both safe and effective. However, it is not yet known how effective the vaccine will be for people with weakened immune systems (immunocompromised). This is because both vaccines require your immune system to be working at certain level to build up a response to them.

It is advised that if you are immunocompromised (due to cancer treatment such as chemotherapy) you should continue to reduce your risk by maintaining social distancing measures as the vaccine continues to be rolled out across the UK. You should talk to your treatment team about when your immune system will be most responsive and when is the best time to be vaccinated. Even if you are immunocompromised, having the vaccine is likely to offer some protection against Covid-19.

Neither the Pfizer/BioNtech nor Oxford University/Astrazeneca vaccine contains any live Covid-19 virus so there is no risk of becoming infected with Covid-19 if you have the vaccination, even if you're immunocompromised.

Which vaccine will I be offered?

Which vaccine you are offered will be based on which one is available to your local NHS provider. 

How safe is the vaccine?

Any coronavirus vaccine that is approved must go through all the clinical trials and safety checks all other licensed medicines go through. The UK has some of the highest safety standards in the world.

Vaccines will only be used if they are approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). The MHRA has been monitoring every stage of coronavirus vaccine development.

The MHRA have advised that those who have a history of anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction) to vaccines, medicine or food should not have the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine. If you have a history of anaphylactic (severe allergic) reactions you should discuss this with your GP when you're called for the vaccine.

The MHRA have advised that people with a known history of allergy to the ingredients in the Oxford University/Astrazeneca vaccine shouldn't receive a vaccination, but people with known food allergies are able to receive this vaccine.  If you are allergic to any ingredients in this vaccine you should discuss with your GP when you're called for it.

Are other Covid-19 vaccines available?

Other vaccines in development will need to be approved by the MRHA. Currently, only the Pfizer/BioNtech and Oxford University/Astrazeneca vaccines have been approved and are in use. 

On the 8 January 2021 the MHRA approved the Moderna vaccine for use in the UK but this is not yet being offered. It is due to start being offered from spring 2021.

More information

Please remember that you can always call our support line on 020 7923 5475 (9am–5.30pm, Monday–Friday) and speak to one of our specialist nurses if you have any concerns or questions or just need someone to talk to.