Against Covid and the flu, of course. But not only. Also against Herpes Zooster and pneumococcus. For fragile patients, such as cancer patients, vaccinations are a precious tool to avoid aggravating the physical condition already tested by the disease and anti-tumor therapies. Sometimes, even a correct vaccination can help improve the results of the treatment. Yet not everyone, both doctors and patients, is clear about the benefits of this preventive tool. A survey conducted on over 500 patients by the Italian Association of Medical Oncology (AIOM) and presented today at the 50th congress of the scientific society shows how 20% of Italian patients affected by cancer have never talked about vaccinations with their oncologist and does not feel informed enough on this topic. 56% do not know the risks of not being immunised. 80% are not aware of the fact that correct vaccination can help improve the results of anti-tumor therapies. And only one in ten sufferers knows that the Herpes Zoster vaccination is strongly recommended.
The Aiom campaign
For this reason, AIOM, with the non-conditioning contribution of GSK, has launched a new national information campaign on immunizations: Vaccination in cancer patients. Information booklets will be distributed in all Italian oncology centers, with the diffusion of a commercial and posts on the institutional social networks of the scientific society. The goal – remember Saverio Cinieri, president of the Association – is to provide certified information to support cancer patients, and raise awareness among the population and doctors on the importance of vaccines.
Watch out for shingles
Covid, flu, pneumonia and all the diseases that can be prevented with the vaccine represent a serious problem for patients, underlines Angioletta Lasagna, Oncologist at San Matteo di Pavia. In addition to the dangers to general health, these infections can delay cancer treatments that patients should receive. In particular, the so-called St. Anthony’s Fire is in the spotlight, a direct consequence of the Varicella Zoster Virus, as recalled Nicola Silvestris, AIOM National Councilor. It is – continues Silvestri – an infection that generally manifests itself with a plaque-shaped rash covered with small itchy blisters with a liquid content. “For people with compromised immune systems such as those undergoing chemotherapy, the risk of developing an episode of Herpes Zoster is doubled compared to the general population, with a wider spread of skin lesions, a longer duration of infection and possible concomitant bacterial infections. And if other organs are involved, even fatal complications can occur.”
Safe vaccines even for those on treatment
An adjuvanted recombinant vaccine is now available against shingles – explains Lasagna – which can be used by all cancer patients, including the immunocompromised. The effectiveness remains constant and is 97% in those aged fifty and 91% in those aged over seventy. It was evaluated in people who were administered two doses two months apart.” “The vaccine is a weapon that the oncologist must know and offer to his patient,” adds Cinieri. The various immunizations can be carried out even when you are under therapy. “As regards anti-Covid, for example, recent scientific works have demonstrated the effectiveness and safety of vaccines even if administered during treatments. We therefore renew the invitation to cancer patients to get immunized – concludes the President Aiom – because the SARS-CoV-2 virus can still be very dangerous”.