The blood cancer groups most vulnerable to COVID-19

Australia has been in an enviable position when it comes to COVID-19. We have been able to watch and learn from the Northern Hemisphere. Prof Miles Prince used this knowledge to indicate which blood cancer patient groups are most vulnerable to COVID-19.

There are three main groups:

1. Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) patients who are getting active treatment or have recently had treatment will likely have a poor vaccine response.  Patients who are under observation without prior treatment will have a variable response and must seek their doctor’s advice to evaluate their own individual risk.  This is important, because you need to evaluate your social contact activities, especially if you are in a group that may have a poor vaccine response. Independent of likely vaccine response, everyone should get vaccinated.

2. If you are receiving monoclonal antibodies for CD-20 such as rituximab your immune system will not be very strong. You should take extra care to avoid COVID-19. It takes approximately 6 months after completing rituximab treatment for your immune system to START TO SUBSTANTIALLY IMPROVE.

3. If you have myeloma and are in the midst of treatment, there are greater risks of getting a significant COVID-19 infection. Unfortunately, the vaccine is not very effective in myeloma patients who are receiving treatment. However, myeloma patients pre-treatment, one year post-transplant and those with smouldering myeloma appear to not be at SUBSTANTIALLY increased risk.