COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the way myeloma patients live their lives and how their cancer is treated.
The vaccine programme is an incredibly important part of getting ahead of the virus and we can see evidence emerging that these vaccines are lowering the risk of death from COVID-19 in the general population. What we still don’t know enough about is the extent to which myeloma and other blood cancer patients have responded to their vaccinations, and what their levels of ongoing protection and risk are.
This is important because, at the moment, policy decisions are being made without data specific to myeloma patients. This includes decisions like how long a gap there should be between vaccine doses for myeloma patients; which vaccine gives the best response in myeloma patients; the impact of myeloma treatment on vaccine choice or dosing schedule; and the impact of the vaccine on the success of stem-cell transplant and, vice versa, the impact of stem-cell transplant on the efficacy of the vaccine.
And the lack of data relevant to myeloma patients affects decision making more widely as well. At the moment, we don’t understand how much protection the wider vaccination of the general public is protecting myeloma patients, and that means that decisions on ending shielding and reopening society more widely are being made without patients, clinicians and organisations like Myeloma UK understanding what ongoing risk actually looks like.
The Blood Cancer UK Vaccine Research Collaborative is an expert panel from across the blood cancer community that has come together to share knowledge about the effects of the vaccine on people with blood cancer, to look closely at where the gaps in research are, and to fund work that will fill those gaps and find answers. By working together, we can share knowledge more efficiently and make decisions on further research so that we have more answers as quickly as possible.
This will enable us to make specific evidence-based policy asks around vaccination policy and ongoing treatment and care: ensuring that myeloma patients get the best care within our current knowledge and can be more confident about making decisions about their day to day lives.