Connect with others who understand.

sign up log in
About MyLymphomaTeam

Connect with others who understand.

sign up log in
About MyLymphomaTeam

What People With Lymphoma Should Know About Getting a Second COVID-19 Booster Shot

Posted on May 04, 2022
Medically reviewed by
Richard LoCicero, M.D.
Article written by
Torrey Kim

  • People over 50 and those who are immunocompromised are now eligible to get a second COVID-19 booster shot.
  • The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society recently began recommending a second COVID-19 booster shot for people with blood cancer and most survivors.
  • People with lymphoma should talk with their oncology teams about whether they should time any booster shots around cancer treatments.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now recommending a second COVID-19 booster shot for individuals older than 50 and those with certain conditions that lead them to be immunocompromised. The American Cancer Society states, “Many expert medical groups recommend that most people with cancer or a history of cancer should get a COVID-19 vaccine.”

People living with lymphoma are typically considered immunocompromised, which can lead to an increased risk for severe disease and hospitalization from COVID-19. The new public health recommendations come after recent studies showed an immune response to the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines in many immunocompromised people, including individuals with blood cancer.

The New Recommendations

Health officials at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and CDC have authorized a second booster shot for people 50 and older and those with immunocompromising conditions. Although this recommendation affects a similar age group as initial recommendations for the first booster dose, there are several details to know before you get this fourth dose:

  • This additional booster is for people who received their first booster shot or last COVID-19 vaccine shot at least four months ago.
  • The fourth shot will be either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, not the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
  • Even if you were previously vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, it’s now recommended that this next dose be a Moderna or Pfizer vaccine only.
  • For those who are immunocompromised and received a three-dose primary vaccination followed by an initial booster, this additional vaccine booster would count as your fifth shot.

How Booster Shots Can Protect People With Lymphoma

If you already had your first booster shot, you may be wondering what the research says about whether boosters are effective for people with lymphoma. Findings from the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society showed that, although about 25 percent of people with blood cancer did not generate antibodies after their initial two COVID-19 vaccine doses, 43 percent had an immune response after receiving a third shot, emphasizing the importance of boosters.

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society recently began recommending a second COVID-19 booster shot for people with blood cancer and most survivors. The organization advises waiting at least four months after your previous booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Speak with your oncologist if you’re unsure of your risk or the timing of your vaccines around treatments.

Response to the Moderna Vaccine

The CDC’s latest recommendations follow promising new results about the effectiveness of the vaccines in immunocompromised people. A recent study from Moffitt Cancer Center included people diagnosed with blood cancers, as well as individuals with solid tumors. Researchers tested levels of antibodies (the proteins the immune system makes) to help destroy a target. In this case, the antibodies were to the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19, made in response to the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

On average, antibodies against the coronavirus were identified after the second vaccine dose in about 90 percent of people in the study. About 85 percent of people with blood cancers showed an antibody response.

The lowest response — around 30 percent — was seen among people with B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma or chronic lymphocytic leukemia who were receiving immunosuppressive therapy. But their response was much higher — nearly 73 percent — when they were not receiving treatment at the time of vaccination.

People who had the following treatments generally had lower responses to the vaccine:

  • Anti-CD20 monoclonal antibodies (including rituximab, sold as Rituxan) less than six months before vaccination
  • Bruton tyrosine kinase inhibitors (such as ibrutinib, sold as Imbruvica) used to treat some types of lymphoma
  • P13K inhibitors (such as idelalisib, sold as Zydelig) used to treat a variety of cancers, including some lymphomas
  • Venetoclax (sold as Venclexta) used to treat certain types of lymphoma
  • CD19 chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T) therapy used to treat lymphoma, leukemia, and multiple myeloma

People who had the following treatments showed a stronger response to the vaccine:

  • Autologous (self) stem cell transplants in the last year
  • B-cell maturation antigen CAR-T therapies used to treat multiple myeloma
  • Allogeneic (donor) stem cell transplants

Response to the Pfizer Vaccine

While this recent study only included people given the Moderna vaccine for COVID-19, other research has looked at the response of immunocompromised individuals to the Pfizer vaccine. These vaccines are based on the same technique, using a molecule called messenger RNA (mRNA) to teach cells how to make a protein that will trigger an immune system response and help prevent a SARS-CoV-2 infection.

In one study that included individuals with medical conditions that caused them to be immunocompromised (including lymphoma), immune system response was, on average, about 67 percent. However, individuals with non-Hodgkin lymphoma made antibodies after vaccination about 51 percent of the time, according to the study results.

Why These Results Matter

Additional doses of mRNA vaccines may be effective at increasing detectable antibodies in a similar way to the first and second doses. Other research indicates that antibody levels are likely to decrease over time, so getting booster doses at recommended intervals is necessary even for vaccinated people who made antibodies after their initial shots.

Simply making antibodies does not guarantee complete immunity from COVID-19 infection, but the findings from these studies are a good sign that the mRNA vaccines for COVID-19 can trigger strong responses — even from people with compromised immune systems. It’s evidence that vaccines can protect people at higher risk of severe infections.

According to the CDC, getting vaccinated is still the best way to protect yourself and slow the spread of the virus. In addition, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society advises people with blood cancer to get vaccinated even if they’ve had COVID-19.

Find Your Team

MyLymphomaTeam is the online social support network for those with lymphoma, their caregivers, and their loved ones. Here, you can connect with other people who understand life with lymphoma. Members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand.

Are you planning to get another COVID-19 vaccine booster? Share your insights in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on MyLymphomaTeam.

References
  1. CDC Recommends Additional Boosters for Certain Individuals — Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  2. COVID-19 Vaccines in People With Cancer — American Cancer Society
  3. Evaluation of Antibody Response to SARS-CoV-2 mRNA-1273 Vaccination in Patients With Cancer in Florida — JAMA Oncology
  4. Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA Authorizes Second Booster Dose of Two COVID-19 Vaccines for Older and Immunocompromised Individuals — U.S. Food and Drug Administration
  5. Largest Study to Date Demonstrates Most Blood Cancer Patients Benefit From a Third Primary Dose of mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines — Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
  6. COVID-19 Vaccination Schedule for Moderately to Severely Immunocompromised Patients — Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
  7. IgG Deficiencies — Johns Hopkins Medicine
  8. Next-Generation Anti-CD20 Monoclonal Antibodies in Autoimmune Disease Treatment — Autoimmunity Highlights
  9. Autologous Transplantation — Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
  10. mRNA Vaccines — Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  11. Safety and Efficacy of the mRNA BNT162b2 Vaccine Against SARS-CoV-2 in Five Groups of Immunocompromised Patients and Healthy Controls in a Prospective Open-Label Clinical Trial — eBioMedicine
  12. BNT162b2 mRNA COVID-19 Vaccination in Immunocompromised Patients: A Prospective Cohort Study — EClinicalMedicine
  13. Characterization of the Significant Decline in Humoral Immune Response Six Months Post-SARS-CoV-2 mRNA Vaccination: A Systematic Review — Journal of Medical Virology
  14. Protect Yourself — Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Richard LoCicero, M.D. has a private practice specializing in hematology and medical oncology at the Longstreet Clinic Cancer Center, in Gainesville, Georgia. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
Torrey Kim is a freelance writer with MyHealthTeam. Learn more about her here.

Related articles

Burkitt lymphoma is a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) that grows very quickly. People who are...

Understanding Treatments for Burkitt Lymphoma

Burkitt lymphoma is a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) that grows very quickly. People who are...
Primary thyroid lymphoma (PTL) is a rare type of cancer. Also called primary lymphoma of the...

Understanding Primary Thyroid Lymphoma

Primary thyroid lymphoma (PTL) is a rare type of cancer. Also called primary lymphoma of the...
Hepatosplenic T-cell lymphoma (HSTCL) is a type of cancer that affects cells of the immune system...

What You Need To Know About Hepatosplenic T-cell Lymphoma: Symptoms, Treatment, and Prognosis

Hepatosplenic T-cell lymphoma (HSTCL) is a type of cancer that affects cells of the immune system...
After being diagnosed with B-cell lymphoma, many people want to better understand their prognosis...

B-Cell Lymphoma Prognosis: Fear, Hope, and Understanding Survival Rates

After being diagnosed with B-cell lymphoma, many people want to better understand their prognosis...
Natural killer (NK)/T-cell lymphoma is a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. NK/T-cell lymphoma is also...

Natural Killer/T-Cell Lymphoma: What You Must Know

Natural killer (NK)/T-cell lymphoma is a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. NK/T-cell lymphoma is also...
For a person diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), disease prognosis is often a major...

Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Prognosis: Fear, Hope, and Understanding Survival Rates

For a person diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), disease prognosis is often a major...

Recent articles

Relationships tend to shift with a major life change like a lymphoma diagnosis. Friends and...

When Family and Friends Don’t Understand Lymphoma

Relationships tend to shift with a major life change like a lymphoma diagnosis. Friends and...
If you’re living with lymphoma, any anxiety and fear you may have surrounding your cancer...

What You May Not Know About Managing Stress and Lymphoma

If you’re living with lymphoma, any anxiety and fear you may have surrounding your cancer...
Lymphoma is a blood cancer in which lymphocytes (certain types of white blood cells) develop...

Blood Tests for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma: What You Need To Know

Lymphoma is a blood cancer in which lymphocytes (certain types of white blood cells) develop...
When one partner is diagnosed with a serious illness like lymphoma, it introduces new dynamics to...

Navigating Relationship Changes When You Have Lymphoma

When one partner is diagnosed with a serious illness like lymphoma, it introduces new dynamics to...
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) takes dozens of different forms, and there are many treatment options...

Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Treatment: What You Need To Know

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) takes dozens of different forms, and there are many treatment options...
Plasmablastic lymphoma (PBL) is an uncommon type of lymphoma. It often develops in people who...

What You Need To Know About Plasmablastic Lymphoma: Symptoms, Treatment, and Prognosis

Plasmablastic lymphoma (PBL) is an uncommon type of lymphoma. It often develops in people who...
MyLymphomaTeam My lymphoma Team

Thank you for subscribing!

Become a member to get even more:

sign up for free

close