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 three Covid-19 vaccines that are now being used in the UK:

These decisions follow positive results for these vaccines from a number of clinical trials (research studies that test new drugs).

If you have a diagnosis of ovarian cancer, it’s understandable that you will have questions around what this means for you. 

This information is up to date as of 3 September 2021.

How am I able to access the vaccine if I haven’t had it already?

If you didn’t receive the vaccine at the time you were invited but would now like to have it you should speak to your clinical team about how to book an appointment.

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

Which vaccine will I be offered?

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

How effective is the vaccine in people currently having treatment for ovarian cancer?

If you have a diagnosis of ovarian cancer you may currently be having treatment that can lower your immune system (the system in your body that helps you fight infection). This is called being immunocompromised. Because of this, people receiving these treatments are considered clinically extremely vulnerable (more at risk of the effects of Covid-19).

A number of clinical trials (research studies into new drugs) have shown results that this vaccine is both safe and effective. However, it’s possible that those who are immunocompromised may not get full protection from the vaccine. This is because the vaccine requires your immune system to be working at certain level to build up a full response to them. But it's believed that the level of protection is still high enough to be useful to people with ovarian cancer.

‘Live’ vaccines can increase the risk of infection as they contain a weakened version of the bacteria or virus they're fighting against. None of the three covid vaccines currently available in the UK are ‘live’ vaccines, so they don't increase the risk of becoming infected with Covid-19 if you receive them. 

It’s advised that if you’re immunocompromised 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. 

How effective is the vaccine in people who are not in active treatment for ovarian cancer?

Those who aren’t in active treatment for ovarian cancer aren't considered clinically extremely vulnerable. 

This means that if you’ve had a diagnosis of ovarian cancer but you've finished treatment, the advice around vaccination and the effectiveness of the vaccine is the same for you as it is for the rest of the general population (those not considered clinically extremely vulnerable).

Do I need a third dose of the vaccine?

NHS England has announced that anyone who is immunocompromised will be able to access a third dose of the vaccine. This includes those having chemotherapy for ovarian cancer.  

This is not a booster vaccine. It's a third dose of the first course of vaccinations and is only available to those who are immunocompromised. This third vaccine aims to lift up immune response to Covid-19 to normal levels (similar to those who are not immunocompromised).  

This third dose will be Pfizer or Moderna but those who have had two doses of AstraZeneca will still be able to access it. 

If you're eligible for this third dose you'll be sent a letter by your treatment team. You can have a third dose eight weeks or more after your second dose. If you think you're eligible for a third dose but haven’t received a letter in the next few weeks you should contact your treatment team or GP.

How safe is the vaccine for people with ovarian cancer?

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're approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). The MHRA has been monitoring every stage of coronavirus vaccine development.

The MHRA are no longer advising that those who have a history of anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction) to any vaccine, medicine or food should not have the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine. Anyone with a previous history of allergic reactions to the ingredients of the vaccine they are offered shouldn’t receive it. But those with any other allergies (such as a food or penicillin allergy) can have it. If you're allergic to any ingredients in the vaccine you’re offered you should discuss with your GP when you’re called for it.

I’m going to have surgery, can I have the vaccine? 

Preparing for surgery doesn’t affect your ability to have the vaccine.

Where possible the vaccine should be given two weeks before surgery but your treatment team will also take into account:

  • your current health
  • the chance of coming into contact with the virus
  • the risk to your health if you were to get Covid-19

If surgery is urgent, it shouldn’t be delayed by the vaccine.

Can I have the vaccine when I’m taking part in a clinical trial?

You can have the vaccine when taking part in a clinical trial, unless the criteria for the trial states that you can’t have it or that people who have had the vaccine will be excluded from the trial. It’s advisable to discuss this with your trial research team.

Does the vaccine increase your CA125 levels?

There’s currently no evidence to suggest that having the vaccine will raise your CA125 level. But as the vaccines are still quite new it may be that over time new information comes to light.

More information

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.