Fifth COVID Shot Recommended for Patients With Cancer

M. Alexander Otto, MMS, PA

April 27, 2022

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) has recommended a fifth COVID-19 mRNA shot for people who are immunocompromised, including many with cancer or a history of cancer.

A fifth shot of an mRNA vaccine represents a second booster, the group explained, because the primary mRNA immunization series for immunocompromised individuals involves three doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.

The update, issued today, comes from the NCCN's Advisory Committee on COVID-19 Vaccination and Pre-exposure Prophylaxis, which released its first vaccine guidelines for patients with cancer in January 2021. The NCCN has issued numerous updates since then as information about the virus and vaccines has evolved. 

"We know a lot more about COVID-19 and the vaccines now, and we can use that knowledge to minimize the confusion and enhance the protection we can offer to our immunocompromised patients," said advisory committee coleader Lindsey Baden, MD, an infectious diseases specialist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Massachusetts. 

The latest iteration of the NCCN's COVID guidelines includes an update for patients who initially received Johnson & Johnson's single-shot vaccine, including a recommendation that patients receive an mRNA vaccine for both the first and second booster.

The group also updated dosing recommendations for preexposure prevention with tixagevimab plus cilgavimab (Evusheld, AstraZeneca), suggesting 300 mg of each monoclonal antibody instead of 150 mg, based on in vitro activity against Omicron variants.

The group noted that the Moderna and Pfizer shots can be used interchangeably for boosters.

"The NCCN Committee considers both homologous and heterologous boosters to be appropriate options," the experts wrote.

M. Alexander Otto is a physician assistant with a master's degree in medical science and a journalism degree from Newhouse. He is an award-winning medical journalist who worked for several major news outlets before joining Medscape and is also an MIT Knight Science Journalism fellow. Email:

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