News Release

Fear keeping some cancer patients from COVID-19 vaccination

Patient/physician communication improves percentage receiving first dose.

Reports and Proceedings

University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio

SAN ANTONIO (Dec. 7, 2021) — “My doctor has not told me to get the vaccine.”

“I do not think it is safe for me because I have cancer.”

“I’m afraid of the side effects.”

These were the three most common reasons given for declining COVID-19 vaccination, according to a survey of 194 high-risk cancer patients conducted by the Mays Cancer Center, home to UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson Cancer Center, in collaboration with clinical partner University Health.

Of the patients surveyed, 56% reported receiving at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccination, which is lower than the community vaccination rate of 76%.

The survey results are being presented this week at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created many challenges and barriers to care for patients on active cancer treatments,” said Kate I. Lathrop, MD, a medical oncologist and breast cancer specialist at the Mays Cancer Center and associate professor of medicine at UT Health San Antonio. She is the lead author of the research, which surveyed patients on arrive to a University Health outpatient infusion clinic between May and June 2021.

Patients were given six options to select for declining the vaccination. Aside from those listed above, other options included “I already had COVID, so I don’t think I need the vaccine” and “I want the vaccine but have not been able to schedule an appointment.”

The Mays Cancer Center implemented a system within its electronic medical record to remind patients about COVID-19 vaccine.,

The study also included an analysis of vaccination rates before a reminder and after. Prior to discussing it with the oncologist, 45% of high-risk patients had not received at least one COVID-19 vaccine. After a reminder, the percentage dropped to 20%.

“We concluded that the reasons cancer patients declined the COVID-19 vaccination can all be addressed by improving patient/physician communication regarding the known safety of the COVID-19 vaccines,” Dr. Lathrop said.

Declining the COVID-19 vaccination: An evaluation of why some high-risk cancer patients decline vaccination

Kate I. Lathrop, Eva Prieto, Stefany Viveros, Salyna Riggs, Eva Balboa, Juanita Murray, Cynthia Evans and Sukeshi Arora.

First presented: Dec. 7-10, 2021, San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium

The Mays Cancer Center, home to UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson, is one of only four National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Centers in Texas. The Mays Cancer Center provides leading-edge cancer care, propels innovative cancer research and educates the next generation of leaders to end cancer in South Texas. Visit

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About University Health

University Health is San Antonio’s only locally owned health system and the only academic medical center in South Texas. Its University Hospital serves as the region’s Level I trauma center for adults and children, and is the only area hospital to be state-designated at the highest level for both its Maternity Center and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Outpatient care is provided through a comprehensive network of urgent, primary and specialty care centers. For more than 100 years, University Health has been committed to delivering compassionate, culturally competent and high-quality healthcare, based on a strong foundation of outcomes‐based research and innovative teaching. Learn more at Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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