Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a type of cancer that starts in the bone marrow but can quickly spread to the blood. This condition increases the risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19. The COVID-19 vaccine can lower these risks, but doctors must decide when is the right time for someone with AML to receive it.
Keep reading to learn about the risks of COVID-19, vaccination, and AML.
According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), people with cancer have a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. The NCI also states that people with blood cancers have an even higher risk of prolonged infections and death from COVID-19 than people with solid tumors.
People with blood cancers typically have lower levels of immune cells that protect the body against viruses. This means that people with AML are at a greater risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19.
AML causes some of the same general symptoms as COVID-19, including fever and tiredness. Additionally, AML can lead to complications that worsen these symptoms and cause other symptoms that overlap with those of COVID-19.
Consequently, people with AML could experience more intense COVID-19 symptoms than people without AML.
People with AML have a weakened immune system. This is typically a result of the condition, some forms of treatment, or both.
There are four types of treatment for most people with AML:
A weakened immune system
AML treatments can weaken the immune system.
For example, chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancerous cells or prevent them from dividing. It can reduce the number of neutrophils in the blood, which are a type of white blood cell. The immune system is less effective with fewer white blood cells to fight infections.
People with weakened immune systems from these treatments have a higher risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19. Individuals with AML may require these treatments to prevent severe complications or symptoms.
Continue treatment and appointments
People with AML who are receiving treatment should continue attending appointments unless a medical professional advises otherwise.
However, it is important to contact a doctor before each appointment to discuss the risks of visiting a clinic and continuing treatment.
A doctor will decide how to treat AML within the context of COVID-19 on a case-by-case basis.
According to the American Society of Hematology, giving chemotherapy to a person with COVID-19 can carry some risks, as the chemotherapy may interact negatively with the COVID-19 treatment the person is receiving.
Doctors may adjust the intensity and nature of treatment plans for people with AML depending on their individual risks.
According to the
The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends that most people with cancer or a history of cancer should get the COVID-19 vaccine. The ACS also highlights the importance of first discussing vaccination with a doctor to determine the best approach.
The COVID-19 vaccine is safe for people with cancer, including AML. However, the vaccine may be less effective at preventing COVID-19 in people with weakened immune systems. For this reason, doctors may suggest that some people with AML wait for their immune system to strengthen before they get the vaccine.
There is currently no evidence to suggest that one type of vaccine is safer or more effective than another in people with AML, as none of the current vaccines are live attenuated vaccines.
A guide to different COVID-19 vaccines
- The Pfizer vaccine for coronavirus
- Everything to know about the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine
- How does the Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine work?
- Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine: What to know about side effects
- Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine: What are the side effects?
- Covaxin COVID-19 vaccine: What to know about side effects
All data and statistics are based on publicly available data at the time of publication. Some information may be out of date.
People with AML and other cancers have a higher risk of severe disease and death from COVID-19 due to their weakened immune systems.
These risks make it essential that people with AML take extra precautions against infection. The ACS states that these precautions are still important in people with cancer who have received the vaccine.
Some tips on protecting against COVID-19 in addition to vaccination include:
- wearing a tightly fitted face mask
- staying 6 feet, or approximately two arm lengths, away from other people
- avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated locations
- washing the hands and surfaces regularly
- covering coughs and sneezes with an elbow
- staying up to date on local COVID-19 guidance
- checking for COVID-19 symptoms regularly
People with AML, which is a rare type of cancer, have an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. This is due to the effects of the condition and some of its treatments.
The COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective at preventing COVID-19, including in people with cancer. However, the COVID-19 vaccine may be less effective in people with weakened immune systems. People with AML may be undergoing treatments that weaken their immune system.
Doctors may recommend that a person wait for the immune system to strengthen, or suggest changing treatment approaches before the person receives the vaccine.