LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The expansion of UofL Health’s vaccine distribution at the Brown Cancer Center is helping cancer patients struggling to finally get the vaccine.

What You Need To Know

  • UofL Health's Brown Cancer Center established a special vaccine event for cancer patients

  • Cancer patients are at high risk for COVID-19

  • Cancer patients were largely excluded from vaccine trials

  • Hospital leaders suggest patients consulting with their physicians

Colon cancer survivor Scott Farnsworth said the key is a positive attitude.

"I know a lot of people that have passed away with cancer and had a positive attitude, but I don’t know anybody who’s made it through cancer with a negative one," Farnsworth said.

The stage 3 colon cancer survivor and current fighter was next in line to receive his COVID-19 vaccine. 

As someone with an underlying health condition, 50-year-old Farnsworth jumped at the chance to get an extra layer of protection after admitting he had his own reservations.

"I was nervous about it for a couple of different reasons, but the primary because my immune system was so down and talking to my oncologist his view was that there’s risks on both sides, but there’s significantly higher risk with somebody with a compromised immune system," Farnsworth said.

The father of four finds himself fighting one disease while fearing another.

"We had to rollback our lifestyle significantly where I lived in a tiny room for several months because we were just scared about what might be out there," Farnsworth explained.

Because of his journey, his decision underscores the importance of becoming vaccinated as some of his kids work at UPS.

"They’ve been incredibly concerned with coming around me, coming around our family just because of my immune system and they’re constantly handling packages. So it gives me a little bit of peace of mind knowing if they came into contact and brought that into the family hopefully well be protected from it," he said.

The search for a COVID-19 vaccine has been frustrating for cancer patients who must decide if the benefits outweigh the risks.

That’s why on Friday, UofL Health’s Brown Cancer Center held a special vaccine event where 100 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine were administered to cancer patients.

Brette Conliffe, clinical oncology pharmacy specialist at UofL Healh's Brown Cancer Center, said cancer patients are at high risk and need protection from getting sick from COVID-19.

"We felt like our patients weren’t being served with the current roll out and thought we could have something here on site where they’re comfortable and they know the staff," Conliffe said.

She said there's no reason to believe that vaccine isn’t safe for cancer patients.

"For the most part there’s not a lot of contraindications to the vaccine unless they’ve had COVID-19 and gotten treatment with some of the infusion therapies or they have had a vaccine within the last two weeks there’s not a lot of reason not to get the vaccine," Conliffe said.

According to Conliffe, we don’t know yet how effective it will be in different cancer groups because cancer patients were largely excluded from vaccine trials.

Cara Brown, a breast cancer survivor, celebrated a milestone this week at the cancer center. She recently finished her last round of chemotherapy and received her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

"Initially, I was a little bit nervous because I’m a chemo patient, but I talked to my oncologist and she actually made the appointment and told me since its not a live virus that I should be fine," Brown said.

Through it all, the 43-year old mother has tried to stay positive and healthy. And she said that’s why she got the COVID-19 vaccine.

"A lot of unexpected things happen in life, but if you take everything one day at a time you can do hard things," Brown said.

Hospital leaders suggest patients consulting with their physicians about whether or not the COVID-19 vaccine could interfere with their cancer treatment.