Earlier this week I was fortunate to receive a covid-19 vaccine. My elation over being able to protect myself, my unborn child, my family, and my cancer patients was immediately tempered by the news that a treasured patient tested covid-19 positive. Diagnosed with stage four cancer in her 30s, her metastatic disease is kept in remission by continuous administration of pills and IV infusions. Every night I have been kept awake with worry over whether I will be able to keep my promise for her to live to see her daughter’s first communion.
People with cancer represent a particularly vulnerable population. They must regularly interact in person with clinics and hospitals in order to receive lifesaving surgeries, radiation and chemotherapies. Most are treated with goal of cure, and all experience time pressure; cancer will not wait for a pandemic. Cancer patients have poorer COVID-19 outcomes. Furthermore, cancer disproportionately impacts Black and other underserved populations.
Approximately 15,000 Washingtonians under age 70 are diagnosed with cancer each year. This compares to the more than 550,000 Washingtonians who are already eligible in phase B1. Adding cancer patients will increase phase B1 size by only a few percentage points. However, it could save countless lives.
On behalf of my patients, I thank those who developed the vaccines and those working overtime to implement them. I ask of Gov. Jay Inslee and his team that all adults and adolescents undergoing cancer treatment be urgently prioritized for vaccination.
Dr. Kelly Paulson