COVID 19 and You

This page includes up to date information on COVID-19,  practical advice, videos and links to relevant information. 

Contact the Lymphoma Care Nurse Support Line – 1800 953 081.

Information and advice on COVID / Coronavirus is changing daily. Ensure you take note of your local government and health advice. The information on this page is general advice and information for lymphoma patients. 

[Page updated: 3 January 2022]

LATEST COVID-19 INFORMATION AND ADVICE
MAY 2022

Dr Krispin Hajkowicz Infectious Disease Specialist is joined by haematologist Dr Andrea Henden and Immunologist Dr Michael Lane. Together, they discuss the different COVID treatments available, prophylactic agents, vaccination advice and vaccine efficacy. Watch the video below. May 2022

WHAT IS COVID-19 (CORONAVIRUS)?

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness caused by a novel (new) coronavirus that was identified in an outbreak in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause mild illnesses, such as the common cold, to more severe diseases, such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

COVID-19 can spread from person to person, through small droplets from the nose or mouth that may spread when a person coughs or sneezes. Another person may catch COVID-19 by breathing in these droplets or by touching a surface that the droplets have landed on and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth.

As is the case with all viruses, the COVID-19 virus mutates with multiple known mutations including the, alpha, beta, gamma, delta and omicron strain. 

The symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny nose, headache, fatigue, diarrhoea, body aches, vomiting or nausea, loss of smell and or taste.

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO KNOW?

  • Having an active malignancy such as Lymphoma/ CLL increases your risk of severe complications if you contract COVID-19. 
  • If you are receiving certain types of immunosuppressive treatment you may not mount a robust anitbody response to the vaccine.  Studies show that patients who have received anti- CD20 therapies such as rituximab and obinutuzumab, don’t respond as well to the vaccine. This is also the case for patient on BTK inhibitors (ibrutinib, acalabrutinib) and protein kinase inhibitors (venetoclax). However, many people with immunocompromise will still mount a partial response to the vaccine. 
  • ATAGI recognises the increased risk to our vulnerable community, therefore there is different vaccination advice compared to the general public. People who are aged over 18 years who received a 3 dose primary course of the vaccine will be eligible to receive a 4th dose (booster) 4 months after their third dose. 

COVID-19: HOW TO REDUCE RISK OF BEING INFECTED

Active treatment for lymphoma & CLL can reduce the effectiveness of the immune system. While we continue to learn more about COVID-19 each day, it is believed that patients with all cancers and the elderly are at a higher risk of becoming unwell with the virus. People who have weakened immune systems are at greater risk of getting infections but there are a number of steps that can be taken to reduce the chances of getting an infection.

VACCINATE yourself and your close contacts

WASH YOUR HANDS with soap and water for 20 seconds or use alcohol-based hand wash. Wash your hands when you come into contact with others, before eating or touching your face, after using the bathroom and upon entering your home.

CLEAN AND DISINFECT YOUR HOME to remove germs. Practice routine cleaning of frequently touched surfaces such as; mobile phones, tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets and taps.

KEEP A SAFE DISTANCE between yourself and others. Maintain social distancing outside of your home by leaving at least a one-meter distance between yourself and others

AVOID PEOPLE WHO ARE UNWELL If you are in public and notice someone coughing/sneezing or visibly unwell, please move away from them to protect yourself. Ensure that family/friends do no visit if they are displaying any symptoms of illness such as fever, coughing, sneezing, headache, etc.

AVOID CROWDS especially in poorly ventilated spaces. Your risk of exposure to respiratory viruses like COVID-19 may increase in crowded, closed-in settings with little air circulation if there are people in the crowd who are sick.

AVOID ALL UNESSENTIAL TRAVEL including plane trips, and especially avoid embarking on cruise ships.

COVID-19 VACCINATION

In Australia there are currently 3 approved vaccines; Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca. 

  • Pfizer and Moderna are not live vaccines. They contain a non-replicating viral vector which cannot spread to other cells. Pfizer and Moderna are the preferred vaccine for people under 60 years of age and are the preferred option for people with a history of clotting disorders. 
  • AstraZeneca is associated with a rare condition called thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS). There is no evidence that a diagnosis of lymphoma is associated with increased risk of TTS. 

COVID-19 vaccination is strongly encouraged for people who are immunocompromised, however for some patients the optimal timing of vaccination requires special consideration. Consultation with your treating specialist may be required. 

The current approved vaccination schedule for lymphoma/ CLL patients is a primary course of 3 doses of vaccine plus a booster dose, 4 months after the third dose. 

I HAVE BECOME UNWELL....

If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 you must get tested and isolate until your results return. A list of testing centres are readily available through your local government health websites. If you are known to be neutropenic or are having treatment expected to cause neutropenia, and you become unwell or develop fevers >38C for 30min you should follow the usual precautions for febrile neutropenia and present to the emergency department

Each hospital will be following a strict protocol on managing febrile illness during the pandemic. Expect to be swabbed and in isolation until your results return. 

I AM COVID-19 POSITIVE

  • DO NOT PRESENT TO THE HOSPITAL IF YOU RETURN A POSITIVE RESULT AND ARE ASYMPTOMATIC. However, if you return a positive COVID-19 swab result, it is important to notify your treating immediately. 

If you are unwell with temperatures >38C for 30min you should follow the usual precautions for febrile neutropenia and present to the emergency department. If you are experiencing shortness of breath or chest pain you should present to the emergency department. 

If you are positive with COVID-19, you may be suitable for COVID-19 monoclonal antibody treaments. In Australia, there are currently two agents approved for use in the immunocompromised population.

  • Sotrovimab is approved in patients prior to requiring oxygen and must be administered within 5 days of a positive test.
  • Casirivimab/ Imdevimab Is indicated if you are asymptomatic and within 7 days of testing positive. 

I’M CARING FOR SOMEONE WITH LYMPHOMA, HOW DO I KEEP THEM SAFE?

  • Practice good respiratory hygiene by covering your mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue when coughing or sneezing, discarding used tissues immediately into a closed bin. Please note you do not need to wear a face mask if you are healthy. Try and organise alternative care/carers if you are unwell.
  • Cleaning your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water for 20 seconds.
  • Avoiding close contact with anyone who has cold or flu-like symptoms;
  • If you suspect you may have coronavirus symptoms or may have had close contact with a person who has coronavirus, you should contact the Coronavirus Health information Line. The line operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week (below).

WHAT HAPPENS WITH MY TREATMENT AND APPOINTMENTS?

  • You may need to change clinic or treatment appointments at short notice.
  • Clinic appointments may be converted to telephone or telehealth appointments
  • Before your hospital visit consider if you have had contact with persons with or suspected of having COVID-19 AND if you are unwell with respiratory symptoms including cough, fever, shortness of breath – let your cancer centre know

 Video Library Link

 Relevant Links

Australian Government and COVID-19 vaccines 
 
National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance
 
Aus Vax Safety 
 
HSANZ position statement
 
Australia and New Zealand Transplant and Cellular Therapies Ltd
 

Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080

Australian Government Health – Coronavirus information

The Government has released important resources around coronavirus specifically – connect with these resources to stay aware of any developments that come to light.

Visit the Department of Health website here

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (global)

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

For further questions you can contact the Lymphoma Nurse Support Line T: 1800 953 081 or email: nurse@lymphoma.org.au

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