UPMC Releases Information On How COVID-19 Vaccine Impacts Elderly And Cancer Patients

People in high-risk groups like the elderly and cancer patients weren't included in clinical trials for the COVID-19 vaccine. UPMC is out with new information for how the vaccine is impacting those groups; KDKA's Dr. Maria Simbra reports.

Video Transcript

- People in high-risk groups, like the elderly or cancer patients, were not included in clinical trials for the coronavirus vaccine.

- Well, tonight, UPMC is out with some new information on how the vaccine is affecting those groups. Here's Dr. Maria Simbra.

MARIA SIMBRA: Two groups have been advised to get the COVID-19 vaccine, people in nursing homes--

DAVID NACE: This 1% of the US population that resides in long-term care represents 33% of all US deaths from this disease.

MARIA SIMBRA: --and people with cancer.

CHADY HAIDAR: These patients are at very high risk for death if they develop COVID-19.

MARIA SIMBRA: But clinical trials leading to emergency use authorization of the vaccines did not include these groups. Now UPMC announces preliminary data on how these people respond to vaccination.

In nursing homes, among 70 volunteers--

DAVID NACE: The levels varied significantly among individuals, but all of them had antibodies.

MARIA SIMBRA: Among 67 patients with cancer of the blood, bone marrow, and lymph nodes--

CHADY HAIDAR: More than half. So 54% actually produced detectable antibodies to the COVID-19 virus.

MARIA SIMBRA: Because almost half did not, Dr. Haidar recommends that people continue to mask and distance even after vaccination and especially people with these cancers.

The findings did not surprise the doctors because people in these groups have had less robust responses to other vaccines. Dr. Nace says even after full vaccinations, some of the nursing home residents developed COVID, but--

DAVID NACE: These individuals, after the second shot, have been asymptomatic. So that means the vaccine is providing some degree of protection there.

MARIA SIMBRA: To prevent hospitalization and death, the doctors urged people with early illness to get IV treatment.

TAMI MINNIER: The demand for monoclonal antibodies at our infusion sites and emergency departments more than quadrupled. We have treated more patients in the last three weeks than at any point in time prior--

MARIA SIMBRA: More work needs to be done to figure out why some patients with cancer did not produce antibodies, and also how people with HIV, autoimmune diseases, and transplants respond to the vaccine. I'm Dr. Maria Simbra, KDKA News.