As COVID-19 vaccines are being rolled out, an extremely vulnerable group is being overlooked – millions of cancer patients.
Doctors nationwide are sounding the alarm that many state governments and the federal advisory committee charged with prioritizing who gets vaccinated should move cancer patients up to the front of the line, right after nursing home residents and front line healthcare workers.
Right now, they’re deemed a lower priority than "essential workers" such as firefighters, mass transit employees, and possibly even supermarket workers.
Yet cancer patients are getting decimated by COVID-19.
New data from 360 US hospitals show that cancer patients are more at risk of catching COVID than the rest of the population.
Once infected they are nearly twice as likely to need hospitalization.
Even worse, they are three times as likely to die as other hospitalized COVID patients, according to the new findings in the journal JAMA Oncology.
New York pulmonologist Daniel Libby explains cancer patients probably get infected frequently because they tend to visit doctors’ offices.
Also, their "defenses are low," meaning their immune systems are weaker.
This week, the COVID Lung Cancer Consortium – a group of oncologists -- is calling on the feds to reexamine priorities and pay "specific attention to this vulnerable population."
Governor Cuomo should do the same. Last week, Cuomo launched the "Vaccine Equity Task Force" including immigrant advocates, civil rights leaders, tenant associations, labor groups, and churches, most of which are political allies of the governor. But not one cancer organization made the list.
"We’re now talking about who’s getting vaccinated, and let me be clear, there is no politics in the vaccination process," Cuomo says. That’s hard to believe, Governor, considering who’s on the task force and who’s missing.
In New York and most states cancer patients are getting ignored. The American Society of Clinical Oncology and The American Cancer Society urged the federal advisory committee to make vaccinating cancer patients a top priority, but the committee’s recommendation, announced Dec. 20, prioritized essential workers and people ages 75 and over to be next in line.
That means in most states, which are following the committee’s recommendations, cancer patients will have to wait months longer.
Fred Hirsch, a renowned lung cancer specialist at Mount Sinai Medical Center, is
investigating whether cancer patients’ weakened immune systems will cause them to produce fewer antibodies when vaccinated. They may need more vaccinations –three shots or even four, instead of the two shots currently prescribed for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. All the more reason to get them started.
Meanwhile, in New York, politically connected unions representing transit workers and supermarket employees are calling state officials and pushing to be considered "essential workers." (See the article in The New York Times dated Dec. 20, 2020).
But cancer doctors complain they’re in the dark about whom to call or when they’ll have vaccines.
Ditto for doctors treating patients with other illnesses.
A Westchester woman tells me she’s worried about her husband. He’s 71, with Type One Diabetes and two heart stents, and he commutes to New York City on Metro North. His doctors don’t know when they’ll get vaccines. She says “I can’t believe 20 year old supermarket workers will get it before him.”
Both the federal vaccine committee and Cuomo defend prioritizing “essential” workers because it will mean vaccinating more minorities. Cuomo claims that "Black, Hispanic, Asian and low-income communities paid the highest price during COVID-19." That’s a politically convenient exaggeration.
Minorities have been only slightly more impacted by COVI-19 than other people, according to the data. In New York State, excluding New York City, Hispanics constitute 12% of the population and 12% of COVID-19 deaths, while Blacks make up 9% of the population and 15% of the deaths.
Similarly, in New York City, Blacks and Hispanics minorities have suffered more fatalities proportionality than whites, but only by a few percentage points. Asians experienced fewer deaths (7%) than their 14% share of the population.
The truth is that COVID-19 is an equal opportunity killer. It is slaughtering cancer patients, no matter what their skin color, and politicians are doing zip about it.
Betsy McCaughey, Ph.D., is Chairman of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths. Read more of Betsy McCaughey's reports — Here Now.
© 2022 Newsmax. All rights reserved.