Patients with cancer have increased risks for several preventable infections due to underlying disease and toxicities of treatment. Compared with other chronic diseases, infections in immune-compromised patients with cancer may lead to more serious complications.
Vaccination is an effective approach for prevention of infectious diseases and related morbidity and mortality. Although the efficacy of influenza and pneumococcus vaccines in immune-compromised hosts has been well documented, the vaccination coverage rate (VCR) in patients with cancer and their relatives is still low. Clinicians’ concerns about vaccination and its consequences are important obstacles to immunization in oncology practice. Another important reason for low VCR is that not all providers suggest vaccination to the patients with cancer.
Dr. Ali Alkan and colleagues evaluated the attitudes of medical oncologists towards vaccination in cancer patients and details of daily practice. The survey study with medical oncologists actively working in Turkey tried to evaluate the attitudes of medical oncologists towards vaccination and to identify predictors of intention to recommend vaccination in patients with cancer.
Influenza, pneumococcus and hepatitis B are the most common vaccines recommended (Table). Medical oncologists recommend vaccination especially to elderly patients and specific cancer types (lung cancer, lymphoma, and breast cancer). Chronic Obstructive pulmonary disease and diabetes mellitus are the most common comorbidities in which vaccination recommended. Although the efficacy of vaccination under therapy has been shown, 90.5% of medical oncologists recommend vaccination either before starting or finishing therapy. In addition, 35.9% of them recommended vaccination to the relatives of cancer patients.
Unfortunately, only 23.4% of medical oncologists think that their recommendations on vaccination are efficient and satisfying. Lack of time during an outpatient clinic visit and lack of knowledge or experience about vaccination are the most common limitations while recommending vaccination. Medical oncologists with more experience in the field, higher academic degrees, low workload during daily practice and experience with autologous or allogeneic bone marrow transplant patients evaluate patients and recommend vaccination. The study pointed out an inverse correlation between the number of patients were seen per day and recommending vaccination.
The efficacy of vaccination in cancer patients is clear. Vaccination coverage rate is an important issue that should be handled. Medical oncologists’ positive attitudes and knowledge about vaccination are the essential components that can increase VCR.
|Vaccination recommended/ prescribed|
|Human Papilloma Virus||63(23.0)|
|Hemophilus İnfluenza B||32(11.7)|
|Diagnoses which have priority during vaccination|
|Group of patients who are evaluated for vaccination|
|In remission/follow up||187(68.4)|
|Before beginning therapy||175(64.1)|
|After last chemotherapy||123(45.0)|
|Patients actively under therapy||37(13.5)|
|Comorbidities in which vaccination is recommended|
|Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease||149(94.3)|
|Coronary Artery Disease||50(31.6)|
|Timing of vaccination during active therapy|
|Before starting therapy||143(52.4)|
|After finishing therapy||104(38.1)|
|Between therapy cycles||9(3.3)|
|Independent of timing of therapy||17(6.2)|
|Limitations/ problems during recommending vaccination|
|Lack of time during outpatient clinic visit||173(63.3)|
|Lack of knowledge and experience about vaccination in patients with cancer||161(58.9)|
|Unconvinced about efficacy of vaccination||136(49.8)|
|Conflicting recommendations in guidelines||74(27.1)|
|Fear of side/adverse effects||74(27.1)|
|Patients’ or patients’ relatives negative thoughts about vaccination||64(23.4)|
|Conflicting results of clinical trials||49(17.9)|
|Unavailability of vaccine through health insurance||45(16.4)|
Table: Characteristics of medical oncologists’preferences during recommendation of vaccination
These findings are described in the article entitled Vaccination in oncology practice and predictors, published in the journal Supportive Care in Cancer. This work was led by Ali Alkan from Ankara University School of Medicine.