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A large population-level assessment reveals third dose COVID-19 vaccination is effective for most patients with cancer, but effectiveness is lower than in the general population, particularly in patients who have undergone recent chemotherapy and those with lymphoma.

The UK Coronavirus Cancer Programme, led by Dr Lennard Lee (Department of Oncology), has undertaken a population-scale real-world evaluation of the third dose COVID-19 vaccination booster programme in 361,098 UK patients with cancer. Breakthrough infection, symptomatic infection, COVID-19-associated hospitalisation and death were compared between the cancer cohort and the general population.

The study, published in the European Journal of Cancer, found that vaccine effectiveness was increased in the cancer and population cohorts following the third vaccine dose, but that effectiveness was lower in patients with cancer compared to the general population.

Comparing between patients with different types of cancer, vaccine effectiveness against breakthrough and symptomatic infections was higher following third dose boosters in those with solid organ malignancies compared to patients with haematological cancers, and protection against symptomatic COVID-19 was lowest in patients with lymphoma.

A recent cancer diagnosis or being treated in the last 12 months with chemotherapy or radiotherapy were also associated with lower vaccine effectiveness against breakthrough and symptomatic COVID-19 infections.

The findings from this study highlight the ongoing susceptibility of cancer patients to COVID-19 and would support additional measures to protect this population.

Read more about the study's findings in relation to vaccination effectiveness in cancer patients.

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