The latest updates about patient vaccination at Roswell Park

Man getting vaccinated.
Pictured: Roswell Park patient Lavon Amos gets vaccinated against COVID-19.

Who's eligible, who should wait? Plus important information about clinic visits

Here’s some important information about our COVID-19 vaccination policies and your clinic visits. The situation changes rapidly, so always check this page for the most up-to-date information.

You cannot sign up for an appointment at Roswell Park at this time. Please do not call your clinic, physician or any other Roswell Park number to set up an appointment. We cannot schedule you until we have enough vaccine.

Please read all of this information carefully.

  • At the present time we cannot schedule any new vaccine appointments.
  • If you believe you are eligible to receive the vaccine at this time and have not yet been scheduled for vaccination at Roswell Park, you are encouraged to schedule an appointment at a community vaccination site outside of Roswell Park if you have the opportunity to do so.
  • Even if you are a Roswell Park patient, you cannot be vaccinated in New York State if you are not a New York State resident.

Who gets vaccinated — and when?

In keeping with New York State COVID-19 vaccination guidelines, we have begun vaccinating our most vulnerable patients who are included in the phase 1b prioritization group.

In addition, as a member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) — an alliance of 30 of the nation’s top cancer centers — Roswell Park is following the recommendations of the NCCN COVID-19 Vaccination Advisory Committee for vaccinating cancer patients. Brahm Segal, MD, Chief of Infectious Diseases at Roswell Park, serves on the committee and helped write the guidelines.

The first group to be offered the vaccine when there are doses available includes those 65 and older who:

  • Have been treated at Roswell Park in the last six months or are scheduled to receive treatment, or
  • Are at highest risk of being immunocompromised (for example, those who have undergone a blood or marrow transplant or who have received adoptive T-cell therapy; or those with leukemia, lymphoma or multiple myeloma), or
  • Are on active therapy (for example, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, immunotherapy), or
  • Have other medical conditions recognized by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) as likely to result in severe COVID-19 infection.

We have a large patient population. To ensure that the vaccine is provided on a fair and impartial basis as it becomes available, we have developed a set of guidelines that take into account all the factors listed above, to prioritize patients based on their risk for severe COVID-19 illness.

If you believe you are eligible to receive the vaccine at this time and have not yet been scheduled for vaccination at Roswell Park, you are encouraged to schedule an appointment at a community vaccination site outside of Roswell Park. The NCCN notes that cancer patients are at high risk for complications from infection with COVID-19, so the most important thing is that you get vaccinated and protected — do not wait for an appointment at Roswell Park if you have an earlier opportunity to get the vaccine.

Members of your household, your caregivers and any other close contacts who are 16 or older should also be vaccinated as soon as they are eligible to receive the vaccine.

How do I sign up for an appointment?

You cannot sign up for an appointment at Roswell Park at this time. Please do not call your clinic, physician or any other Roswell Park number to set up an appointment. We cannot schedule you until we have enough vaccine.

We will notify you via phone, text and/or email when you’re eligible and we have enough vaccine on hand to schedule an appointment for you.

After you get a message from Roswell Park stating that vaccine is available for you, please respond immediately to let us know whether you want the vaccine. This is important, because once a vial of vaccine has been opened, it must be used within 24 hours. We must know which patients do or do not want to be vaccinated so we can ensure that no vaccine is wasted.

Should any cancer patients wait to be vaccinated?

“In general, cancer patients should not wait to be vaccinated,” says Dr. Segal. The NCCN advises that all patients who are in active therapy should be vaccinated, with the understanding that we have limited data about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines in patients who fall into that group.

The NCCN adds that specific patients should wait to be vaccinated:

  • You must wait at least 14 days after receiving another type of vaccination. But what if you’re planning to get a flu shot or the shingles vaccine? “If a COVID vaccine is offered to you, pick the COVID vaccine first; other vaccines can wait,” Dr. Segal says.
  • If you received a blood or marrow transplant or cellular therapy (TCT) recently, you should wait to be vaccinated — at least 100 days after an autologous transplant or cellular therapy, and at least 180 days after an allogeneic transplant. This is to ensure that the vaccine will be as effective as possible.
  • If you’re receiving immunosuppressive therapy for a brief period of time, you should wait. “It makes sense if we're talking about waiting only a couple of weeks until, let's say, long-term steroids are tapered off,” advises Dr. Segal.
  • If you’re scheduled to undergo surgery in the near future, you should be vaccinated at least 72 hours before surgery and no sooner than 2 weeks after surgery.
  • If you have received platelet transfusions in the last 30 days, you will need approval from your care team. In addition, if you are being treated for a hematologic malignancy (a blood cancer, such as leukemia) and you have very low platelet counts, please contact your care team. Dr. Segal explains that the COVID vaccine is given as an injection into the muscle, and it may cause bleeding. “If you have a very low platelet count and are used to getting platelets, you may need platelets before getting the immunization.”
  • Patients on anticoagulant therapy (blood thinners) may take the vaccine as long as they are within the therapeutic range. If you are on anticoagulation therapy and have noticeable bruising or bleeding, please contact your Roswell care team for guidance.
  • If you are enrolled in a clinical trial, you will be screened electronically to see if you are in a trial that might make you ineligible for vaccination; this requires special approval from your care team.

After I get my first shot, when will I need to come in for my second dose?

You will be scheduled for your booster shot at the time of your first shot. It is important that you receive this second dose for maximum protection. There is no evidence that protection from the first dose will continue if you do not get the second dose.

The second dose of the Pfizer vaccine is given 21 days (three weeks) after the first dose. The Moderna vaccine is given 28 days (four weeks) after the first dose. The second dose should be given as close to the recommended date as possible. However:

  • It is permissible to receive the second dose up to four days earlier than the recommended date.
  • If you are unable to receive the second dose by the recommended date (you’re late in getting it), you should still get it. You do not need to start over with another first dose.

If I get my first dose at Roswell Park, do I have to come back to Roswell for my second dose?

Yes. You must receive your second dose at the same location where you received the first dose. This is because each location must ensure that enough second doses are on hand for everyone who received a first dose at that location.

Is it OK if I get a different vaccine for the second dose?

No. COVID-19 vaccine products are not interchangeable. Your second dose must be the same vaccine product. If for some reason you receive a different vaccine for the second dose, you do not need to get another second dose of the original vaccine.

Are side effects different after the second dose?

Side effects from the second dose may be stronger than any you experienced after the first dose. These side effects are listed on the FDA Fact Sheet for Recipients and Caregivers, which the FDA requires the vaccine site to give you at the time you are vaccinated, whether you receive the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.

Can I stop wearing a mask and social distancing after I get the first dose of the vaccine? What about after the second dose?

You will not develop full immunity to COVID-19 until at least two weeks after your second dose of the vaccine. In addition, it may be possible for someone who is fully vaccinated to become infected again without developing symptoms and to pass the virus on to others. So even after you are vaccinated, you should continue wearing a mask and taking other safety precautions until the pandemic is under control.

Getting a COVID-19 test? Important notice about your clinic visits

If you had a COVID test outside of Roswell and have not yet received your results, let your Roswell Park clinic know before you come in for an appointment. You will not be denied treatment, but until you have received a negative result, safety precautions must be taken ahead of your visit in case you are infected with COVID-19.

Please be honest about your symptoms and help us protect our other patients, staff and visitors by ensuring that those precautions are in place before you arrive.

Visit this page for answers to other frequently asked questions about the vaccine.

COVID-19 Vaccine FAQ's

Do you have more questions regarding the COVID-19 vaccine? Watch videos and read our list of frequently asked questions.

Learn More