Cancer, Alzheimer’s patients have much higher COVID-19 breakthrough rate, study shows

Published: May. 25, 2022 at 12:56 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - In two studies just released by Case Western Reserve University of Medicine, cancer and Alzheimer’s patients are much more likely to contract COVID-19 even though they have been fully vaccinated.

Fully-vaccinated individuals who still end up contracting coronavirus are known as breakthrough cases.

The research followed more than 636,000 fully-vaccinated people, of which more than 45,000 had been diagnosed with one of the 12 most common forms of cancer.

“This study showed significantly increased risks for COVID-19 breakthrough infection in vaccinated patients with cancer, especially those undergoing active cancer care, with marked variations among specific cancer types,” said Rong Xu, professor of biomedical informatics at the School of Medicine and coauthor of this study.

According to CWRU, the study came up with the following findings;

  • The overall risk of breakthrough COVID infections in vaccinated people with cancer was 13.6%, compared to 4.9% for vaccinated people without cancer.
  • The highest risk of breakthrough infections was in people with pancreatic cancer at 24.7%, liver cancer 22.8%, lung cancer 20.4% and colorectal cancer 17.5%.
  • Cancers with lower risk of breakthrough infections included thyroid 10.3%, endometrial 11.9%, and breast 11.9%.
  • The overall risk for hospitalization following a breakthrough infection, in study participants with cancer, was 31.6%, compared to a rate of with 3.9% in those without cancer.
  • The risk of death was 6.7% following a breakthrough infection, compared to 1.3% in patients without cancer.

The second study focused on people diagnosed with some subtypes of dementia.

The study followed 262,847 adults 65 or older who were fully vaccinated, and of those 2,764 people were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease; 1,244 with vascular dementia, 259 with Lewy body dementia, 229 with frontotemporal dementia and 4,385 with mild cognitive impairment.

Vaccinated patients with dementia had an overall risk for breakthrough infections ranging from 10.3% for Alzheimer’s disease to 14.3% for Lewy body dementia, significantly higher than the 5.6% in the vaccinated older adults without dementia.

“Patients with dementia have a significantly higher rate of breakthrough COVID infections after vaccination than patients of the same age and risk factors other than dementia,” said Pamela Davis, the Arline H. and Curtis F. Garvin research professor at the School of Medicine. “Therefore, continued vigilance is needed, even after vaccination, to protect this vulnerable population. Caregivers should consider ongoing masking and social distancing, as well as booster vaccines to protect these individuals.”

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