If you are unsure about whether you'll be vaccinated for COVID-19, you are not alone. It's natural to have reservations about something so new.

Dr. Ivan Porter II, a Mayo Clinic nephrologist, was among the first to roll up his sleeves to be vaccinated for COVID-19 at Mayo Clinic in Florida. Dr. Porter says that he hopes others who are eligible will be inspired to be vaccinated for COVID-19.

“Seeing people that we know and people that we trust, and people that we care about, being vaccinated will hopefully make us all feel more comfortable about being vaccinated," Porter says. "We still have to continue the long, hard, arduous work that we've been doing for months until we get to a point where we're in a much better place."

Porter says front-line workers who work in emergency departments and ICUs, and directly care for patients with COVID-19, will now be able to work with a little less fear of becoming seriously ill with the virus. He says there are many other health care workers who also need to get vaccinated.

"There are multiple specialties that deal with patients who have COVID-19 that we may not think of that are in that front line," he says. "Anyone can be infected with this virus and be infectious because of the virus, and thus place everyone at risk. The only way that we'll be able to make progress is for us to be able to widely administer this vaccine."

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Getting vaccinated for COVID-19 is one part of the solution to end the pandemic. Porter says it's important to continue the recommended intervention strategies.

"We've got to continue to mask. We've got to continue to social distance, and we have to continue to pay attention to the things for basic disease prevention that have allowed us to do as well as we have done," he says.

Safety of COVID-19 vaccines for patients with cancer and cancer survivors

As two new COVID-19 vaccines become more widely available, patients with cancer and cancer survivors may wonder if it's safe to be vaccinated.

"Because cancer patients and survivors are at higher risk for severe effects from COVID-19 infection, we recommend they get vaccinated as soon as they can," says Dr. Robert McWilliams, a medical oncologist at Mayo Clinic. "Patients who are immunosuppressed due to active cancer treatment may not get the same effective response as someone without immune compromise, but it should still be safe for them to receive the vaccine."

There is no definitive data on the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna in patients with cancer or cancer survivors. "However, the few patients with cancer who were studied as part of the clinical trials leading to the approval of these vaccines did not experience any unique side effects," says Dr. Joleen Hubbard, a medical oncologist at Mayo Clinic.

The good news for patients with cancer and cancer survivors is that the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are not live virus vaccines. That makes them less likely to cause side effects in immunosuppressed patients. "Both vaccines are mRNA (messenger RNA) vaccines, which means they teach our bodies how to make a protein that will trigger an immune response without the use of a live virus that causes COVID-19," Hubbard says. "Once triggered by the protein, our immune system makes antibodies to protect us if we are exposed to the virus."

Patients should discuss any concerns they have about being vaccinated for COVID-19 with their health care provider.