Medically reviewed by Dr. Brian Koffman
What does the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency mean for the immunocompromised?
With the rest of the world moving on from the pandemic, individuals who are immunocompromised, which includes all those with chronic lymphocytic leukemia and small lymphocytic lymphoma regardless of treatment status, can no longer rely on the larger community’s measures to lower their risk of exposure to COVID-19, so they must up their protective measures. With the end of the public health emergency, there are also concerns that developing new protective measures and treatments will slow or become less accessible. Immunocompromised individuals can visit the COVID-19 prevention and treatment page on the CLL Society website to learn more about protecting themselves. The CLL Society COVID-19 planning checklist is a great resource for anyone, but especially those who are immunocompromised, to access general guidelines to help prepare for COVID-19 in advance to help minimize the anxiety that many people can experience when they receive a positive test result or when someone in their household tests positive. It is best to know in advance the immediate appropriate actions to take to isolate or quarantine.
Should cancer patients still take precautions against COVID-19?
The pandemic is not over for many cancer patients, and they need to remain vigilant and cautious. Wearing a mask, handwashing, avoiding crowded indoor spaces, getting tested routinely, social distancing, contact tracing, and isolating when infected are all highly recommended.
What should cancer patients do to keep themselves safe and healthy?
Getting vaccinated is critical for cancer patients, though responses to vaccines may be less protective for the immunocompromised community. Stay flexible and look for changes in what’s happening with the prevalence of infection in your local community and watch for new therapies. Consider clinical trials for COVID-19 prevention and treatment. Those with compromised immunity are unlikely ever to be 100% risk-free of being out in the world. While staying isolated at home is undoubtedly the safest from a COVID-19 perspective, it is psychologically unhealthy to avoid all social contact. The degree of risk-taking will be different for everyone based on one’s cancer biology, treatment, and one’s risk tolerance. Cancer patients need to carefully assess their willingness to take risks. The CLL Society website has information on the most recent COVID-19 vaccination schedules for immunocompromised individuals.