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'It’s just an absolute game changer': Hoosiers in active cancer treatment eligible for vaccine

Patricia Harvey
Posted at 8:42 PM, Mar 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-03 20:47:47-05

INDIANAPOLIS — Not once, but twice, Patricia Harvey has beaten cancer. Several years ago, she was diagnosed with Small Cell Lung Cancer and then, a high-grade neuroendocrine tumor.

“With this pandemic going, I try to be in the house," Harvey said. "I don’t try to be trying to be outside."

Today, the Indianapolis grandmother is undergoing immunotherapy at IU Health.

“I can’t afford to catch COVID because I had cancer in my lung, so I’m down one,” Harvey said.

Harvey said she was skeptical and scared, especially during the beginning of the pandemic, because of her condition.

“About 25% of people with active cancer who are on treatment who get COVID-19, die from it and that compares to about 2-3% of the general patient population,” Dr. Nasser Hanna said.

The oncologist and Professor of Medicine with the IU School of Medicine said patients like Harvey are some of the highest risk people to contract COVID-19. Hanna said it was welcoming news when it was announced Hoosiers actively receiving cancer treatment, have "active primary lung or hematologic cancers" were eligible for the vaccine.

“Absolutely thrilled with the news. These conversations have been ongoing with the Department of Health,” Hanna said. “Expanding that to these high-risk groups, particularly those who have active cancer, who are on chemotherapy, it’s just an absolute game-changer for them. It allows them to reduce their admissions to the hospital to avoid delays in their treatment and just like the rest of us, it allows us a little bit a sense of empowerment and freedom that comes with it.”

At first, Harvey said she was wary of taking the vaccine, but after doctors recommended, she get it, she decided to sign up. Just days before her appointment, she said she “feels lucky” she is able to get the vaccine this weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“In my condition, preexisting condition with cancer, my advice to those people that’s dealing with the same thing I’m dealing with, get yourself protected,” Harvey said.

MORE INFO | The Indiana State Department of Health

In Indiana, Hoosiers identified by their healthcare provider to be in the highest risk category for COVID-19 are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. This may include:

  • Active dialysis patients
  • Sickle cell disease patients
  • Down syndrome
  • Post-solid organ transplant
  • People who are actively in treatment (chemotherapy, radiation, surgery) for cancer now or in the last three months, or with active primary lung cancer or active hematologic cancers (lymphoma, leukemia and multiple myeloma)

The Indiana State Department of Health said those Hoosiers “will receive a unique registration link” or can call 211.