TAMPA, Fla — Local doctors in the Tampa Bay area explain those who are immunocompromised are less likely to gain antibodies through the COVID-19 vaccine.
Since the passing of Colin Powell, health experts noted he was vaccinated, but fighting blood cancer at the same time.
“We can sometimes see patients - despite doing and receiving vaccines when they should be - can still have a tough time fighting infections," Doctor Rachid Baz stated.
One doctor who specializes in oncology at Moffitt Cancer Center, Doctor Rachid Baz explained there are several reasons why a vaccinated person with cancer can have a hard time fighting COVID-19.
First, the disease itself can weaken the person's immune system. “Multiple myeloma is a cancer of plasma cells. Plasma cells are a part of our immune system. As a result, the myeloma can hijack the patient’s immune system," Dr. Baz explained.
Next, the treatments someone will receive for their cancer can impact their immune system. “In addition, some of the therapies we use to treat multiple myeloma can also result in an immune-compromised state. A combination of those things could lead to more infectious problems in our patient population," Doctor Baz stated.
Health experts highly recommend people with cancer get vaccinated if approved by their doctor, but that's still not a guarantee they will gain antibodies. Doctor Baz said in a study conducted by Moffitt Cancer Center they saw this happen: “In short, patients with multiple myeloma as compared to, normal volunteers, have lower antibodies after COVID vaccination.”
Doctor Michael Teng, who is the Associate Dean for the College of Medicine at the University of South Florida, said anyone immunocompromised could have a hard time gaining antibodies from the COVID19 vaccine.
“You don’t respond as well to any vaccination. This is why the FDA and the CDC approved a booster dose for those who have those specific immunocompromised conditions," Doctor Teng added.
He added that the booster shot helped people who are immunocompromised gain antibodies. “After a couple of doses, some people immunocompromised don’t respond at all. After the third dose, they sometimes, most of them respond, but not all of them," Dr. Teng added.
Regardless of if you are immunocompromised or not, both doctors urge you to get vaccinated because it could help those who are at high risk.
"The more people that get vaccinated, the less transmission there are. Colin Powell is the kind of person we are trying to protect, with masks, with vaccination," Dr. Teng explained.
As someone who treats cancer patients, Dr. Baz said most of his patients got the vaccine as soon as they could because they are scared of dying. To help ease their fears, he asks you to help.
“If we were able to get more people vaccinated across the board, I think that would also indirectly help our oncology patients," Dr. Baz added.