UK cancer patients more likely to die following COVID-19 than European patients

Cancer patients from the UK were 1.5 times more likely to die following a diagnosis with COVID-19 than cancer patients from European countries.

This is the finding of a study of over 1000 patients; 924 from European countries and 468 from the UK during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. The research team, led by Imperial College London, say the study highlights the need for UK cancer patients to be prioritised for vaccination.

The study tracked data between 27 February to 10 September 2020, across 27 centres in six countries: Italy, Spain, France, Belgium, Germany and the UK.

The results, published in the European Journal of Cancer, showed that 30 days after a COVID-19 diagnosis, 40.38 per cent of UK cancer patients had died, versus 26.5 per cent of European patients.

Six months after a COVID-19 diagnosis, 47.64 per cent of UK cancer patients had died, compared to 33.33 per cent of European patients.

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The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised the government to prioritise vaccinating people who are over 16 and living with adults who have weakened immune systems alongside priority group 6, who are now receiving invites.

This includes (but is not limited to) adults living with people undergoing immunosuppressive treatments (including chemotherapy) and those with blood cancer.

In a letter to the Government, the JCVI stated that adults with weakened immune systems (or who are immunosuppressed) are more likely to have severe COVID-19 symptoms and that the vaccine may be less effective for these groups.

Research indicates that some cancer patients don’t get the same benefit from the COVID-19 vaccine. This includes people with cancer that affects the blood, bone marrow or lymph nodes, particularly those with chronic lymphocytic leukemia.


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