COVID-19 information for patients
At Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA), your health and safety are our top priorities. We have thorough safety measures in place to protect you, your caregivers and our staff.
SCCA patients may bring only one visitor to their appointments. Visitors with COVID-19 symptoms are not allowed in SCCA clinics.
The information on this page is subject to change pending guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization, Washington State Department of Health and/or Public Health – Seattle & King County. Some of the information on this page has been adapted, with permission, from UW Medicine’s COVID-19 Vaccines webpage.
In line with our ongoing commitment to safety, please follow these guidelines:
Call ahead before coming to your appointment if you have:
- Recently tested positive for COVID-19 (either from a laboratory or a home test)
- Any respiratory virus symptoms – even if mild
- Had a recent exposure to or a household member diagnosed with COVID-19
This is an important step in keeping everyone safe. If you come to the clinic without notifying your care team in advance of a positive test, exposure, or symptoms, you may be asked to reschedule your appointment, treatment, or procedure, or be moved to a telehealth visit.
Get tested for COVID-19 if you have:
- Signs or symptoms of COVID-19
- Been exposed to someone who has COVID-19 (within 6 feet of the person for 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period) or someone in your household has COVID-19
- Traveled and are unvaccinated
You do not need to get tested if you do not have symptoms of COVID-19 or haven’t been exposed to someone with COVID-19.
COVID-19 vaccine updates
SCCA offers the initial doses—also known as the “primary series”–of the COVID-19 vaccine to patients at SCCA’s South Lake Union clinic.
Recent updates on vaccine booster doses
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and CDC have approved an additional vaccine dose, called a “booster”, for eligible individuals who received the full Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson (J&J) primary series. The primary series refers to the initial doses of the vaccine. For Pfizer and Moderna, the primary series is two shots, for J&J, it is one shot.
You may “mix and match” your booster dose. This means you may get a booster that was made by a different company than your primary series. For instance, if you got two doses of the Pfizer vaccine, you may get a booster dose of the Moderna vaccine. SCCA is currently offering booster doses to SCCA patients only, by appointment, at SCCA’s South Lake Union clinic.
We recommend eligible patients get a booster if they received two Moderna vaccines or two Pfizer vaccines at least five months ago, or if they received the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least two months ago. To schedule a booster, please contact your care team. At this time, we are unable to give booster doses to family/caregivers.
Patients at other SCCA locations and their family/caregivers can find a vaccine site by visiting the Washington State Department of Health’s vaccine locations webpage.
All people 12 years and older who received the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine primary series are eligible for a booster dose. Those 18 years and older who received the Johnson & Johnson or Moderna vaccine are also eligible for a booster.
- If you got the Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine: You should wait 5 months or more after your second (or third) dose to get your booster
- If you got the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine: You should wait 5 months or more after your second (or third) dose to get your booster
- If you got the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine: You should get a booster dose 2 months after your first dose
The CDC has approved that patients receiving a specific initial series are allowed to get an alternate vaccine as a booster. For example, someone who had previously received a Johnson & Johnson vaccine series could receive a Moderna or Pfizer booster (and vice versa). Although most recommend getting a booster with the same vaccine, getting another vaccine as your booster is also allowed.
Please continue to stay safe by avoiding crowds, avoiding indoor gatherings with people outside of your household, wearing your mask and getting tested for COVID-19 if you develop symptoms. Please also encourage all of your family members, friends and household contacts get vaccinated. When you spend time in groups, make your “bubbles” small and ask that everyone be vaccinated in your bubble.
COVID-19 vaccine frequently asked questions
Talk to your team about getting vaccinated. We recommend that all cancer patients get vaccinated against COVID-19, unless they have low counts due to chemotherapy (e.g., post leukemia therapy) or received a bone marrow transplant or CAR T-cell therapy in the last 3 months. If you aren’t sure, ask your clinical team. SCCA has vaccines for patients who need them.
Just as important – talk to your family, close contacts, and caregivers about getting vaccinated. Protecting those around you will help protect you from being exposed to the virus.
We do not recommend checking antibodies because we do not know what level of antibody is considered protective (even in the general population). This is consistent with current guidance from the CDC, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) and the FDA. Antibody tests also do not measure other types of vaccine responses, like T-cell responses, that play a role in immune protection.
More research is being done to determine the best way to tell if someone is protected from COVID and to understand how well vaccinated cancer patients are protected.
Boosters are an important way to protect yourself from getting COVID-19 and variants of the virus, such as Omicron. Talk with your clinical team about getting an additional dose if you meet any of the following criteria:
- Moderately to severely immunocompromised
- Received a Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine series at least five months ago (>12 years of age for Pfizer, >18 for Moderna)
- Received a Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at least two months ago
From what we currently know, based on studies done in the general population, the Pfizer, Moderna, and J&J vaccines help protect against major COVID-19 complications from the variants. They remain highly effective at preventing severe disease, hospitalization and death.
It is important to recognize that no vaccine is 100 percent effective at preventing infection, so even if you are fully vaccinated, we recommend wearing masks, avoiding crowds and staying socially distant from those outside your household as extra precautions to help prevent exposures to COVID-19. This is particularly important for cancer patients, who may have less of a response to vaccines. If you develop symptoms after getting vaccinated, tell your care team and get tested for COVID-19.
We are continuing to monitor new variants and will provide additional information as it becomes available.
We do not know, as this is still being researched. Recent studies for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have shown protection stayed high for months. Data has suggested potential benefits of a third dose in the initial series, and a booster six months after the initial series for some populations of patients – particularly cancer patients with weaker immune systems. Longer-term follow-up studies are needed to determine how long immunity lasts in those with cancer. It isn’t clear how long booster doses can help lengthen protection.
The length of protection for cancer patients has not been thoroughly studied, but it is likely that responses will not be as robust. We recommend continuing to mask up, avoid crowds and stay socially distant from those outside your household as extra precautions to help prevent exposures to COVID-19.
SCCA strongly recommends continued vigilance for cancer patients, even those who are fully vaccinated. Cancer patients are at increased risk for COVID-19 complications and may not be as well protected by vaccines, so patients should continue to:
- Wear masks,
- Maintain social distancing,
- Avoid crowds,
- Get vaccinated and,
- Tell your care team if you:
- Have symptoms so you can get tested,
- Were exposed to someone with COVID-10, or
- Were diagnosed with the virus at another facility or at home (using an antigen test.)
It is very important that your caregivers, household members and other close contacts are vaccinated to ensure that you are protected.
- If you are an SCCA patient who is planning to get vaccinated, but have not yet received a dose, you may be eligible for a study. The study measures COVID-19 vaccine responses in patients who are within one year of autologous or allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) or CAR-T-cell therapy. Talk with your care team for more information.
- If you are an SCCA patient who developed COVID-19, there are also studies. If you were to become positive, ask your care team if you are eligible for these trials.
Washington State Department of Health
City of Seattle
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
King County Department of Public Health
General COVID-19 frequently asked questions
COVID-19 symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest tightness
- Sore throat
- Stuffy nose or runny nose
- Loss of taste or smell
- New onset of diarrhea
- Muscle aches and pains
If you have an appointment scheduled and have COVID-19 symptoms, please call your care team before coming to the clinic.
Knowing about symptoms before you come into the clinic helps us keep everyone safe.
COVID-19 and cancer
According to SCCA’s medical director of Infection Prevention, Dr. Steven Pergam, patients with blood malignancies (non-Hodgkin lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, acute myeloid leukemia, acute lymphoblastic leukemia and multiple myeloma) and those who have received bone marrow transplants are most vulnerable because they have the most profound immune deficits.
Patients who are in active treatment for any type of cancer are also at risk. Please see the CDC's webpage on COVID-19 and cancer for more information
Patients who are not in active treatment should also be cautious and follow widely distributed public health guidelines that are detailed below under “What can I do to keep myself, my family and friends safe?”
COVID-19 and the flu
The flu and COVID-19 are both contagious illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by infection with a new coronavirus (called SARS-CoV-2). The flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses.
It may be hard to tell the difference between the flu and COVID-19 from symptoms alone because some of the symptoms are similar. You should get tested for COVID-19 to help confirm a diagnosis.
Keeping you safe
SCCA is taking the following steps:
- Screening everyone who enters the clinic for COVID-19 symptoms and providing COVID-19 testing when appropriate.
- Providing procedure masks to all staff working in the clinic.
- Providing face shields to all healthcare workers.
- All patients, visitors, and staff in SCCA clinics must wear a surgical mask. If patients and visitors aren’t wearing one, a mask will be provided upon arrival. Please see CDC guidelines on how to protect yourself for more information.
- Limiting the number of visitors. This includes:
- Scheduling telehealth appointments for non-critical patient visits when possible.
- Limiting the number of caregivers that patients can bring to their appointment (one caregiver; no children under 12). Our alliance partners, University of Washington Medical Center and Seattle Children's are also limiting visitors. Click on links for their updated policies.
- Keeping all non-essential staff out of the clinic.
- Postponing all patient education events, classes and volunteer opportunities. Some classes are available online on YouTube.
- Increasing the frequency of cleaning high-touch surfaces such as door handles and elevator buttons.
- Limiting hours at the Gift Shop in the South Lake Union clinic. Currently the Gift Shop is open Monday through Thursday from 10 am - 2 pm, based on staffing and volunteer availability. We hope to increase hours as our volunteers return to campus. Shine located next to SCCA House is open by appointment only. Shoppers can also call Shine to buy something over the phone and arrange for curbside pickup. Call Shine at (206) 606-7560 for more information or to make an appointment.
SCCA has extensive and thorough infection control procedures, and we are doing everything we can to ensure the health and safety of our community. We have protocols and systems in place to keep all patients, visitors and staff safe. However, with highly contagious strains of the virus, full protection isn’t always possible.
The most important steps to take are:
- Get vaccinated according to the National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines for your personal health situation.
- Avoid going to gatherings with large numbers of people; follow social distancing guidelines.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Wear a mask when you are out in public and cannot practice social distancing.
- Wear a mask when in a health care setting, including SCCA clinics.
- Practice good hand hygiene and cough and sneeze etiquette. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Currently, there is no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 can be transmitted through food or water systems. However, you can take extra steps to help protect your health while preparing, cooking and shopping for food. Visit our document downloads page and click on Food, Nutrition and COVID-19 for more information.
- Plan how you will take care of sick family members. Make plans for childcare if you are sick or if your child is sick. Have a thermometer at home so you can check for fever if you or a loved one feels ill.
- Stay informed – check the CDC site regularly for new updates.
Screening and testing
All who enter SCCA clinics are screened upon entry COVID-19 symptoms. Every person will be given an I’ve been screened sticker. If you have a smartphone, you may complete your digital health screening. Anyone with symptoms will be given a procedure mask and evaluated in a separate area.
Due to limited availability of tests, we encourage you to find testing locations in your community by visiting the Washington State Department of Health’s COVID-19 testing locations webpage. If you can’t find testing in your community, talk to your team to schedule a test at SCCA. We don’t currently have capacity to test family members/caregivers.
In addition to knowing which guidelines to follow, testing is important because many of the current treatment options available for cancer patients, such as monoclonal infusions and antiviral pills, require a test before you can get them. As a reminder, if you have cold or flu symptoms— even if you test negative for COVID-19—tell your team. They may want to reorganize your schedule. We offer testing to eligible patients by appointment only. If you are an SCCA patient with symptoms and think you need to be tested for COVID-19, please call your care team.
Patients who come to the clinic for appointments are evaluated and if they need to be tested, it is done in an enclosed area away from other patients and family members. Due to limited supplies, we are not able to test caregivers at this time.
If you took a test at home, we recommend the following:
Antigen test result
If you have symptoms:
If you have been exposed and don’t have symptoms:
Get a PCR test to confirm your negative result.
Get a PCR test to confirm your negative result.
You have COVID-19.
You have COVID-19.
Yes. In line with CDC guidance, all patients, visitors, and staff in SCCA clinics must wear a mask. If you’re coming for an appointment, please wear a mask. If someone comes with you, they should wear one, too. A mask will be provided to those who aren’t wearing one.
By covering your mouth and nose, you are less likely to spread the virus when you are not showing symptoms (asymptomatic) or have early symptoms.
Washington state requires people to wear face coverings in indoor public spaces such as stores, offices and restaurants and at large outdoor events with 500 or more attendees. This applies to all people over the age of five, regardless of vaccination status.
You do not need to wear a mask:
- In your home when you are only with people in your household.
- When you are alone in your car.
- When you are outdoors and people are more than six feet apart.
For exceptions and other information, visit Washington state’s coronavirus response website.
To put on a mask:
- Wash your hands with soap and water or hand gel (if soap and water aren’t available).
- Without touching the front of your face covering, stretch the bands around your ears or secure the ties around your head (depending on the type of face covering you have).
- Cover the area from the bridge of your nose to under your chin.
- Fit the mask snugly but comfortably against the side of your face.
- Make sure you can breathe without restriction.
- Wash your hands.
To remove your mask:
- Wash your hands with soap and water or hand gel (if soap and water aren’t available).
- Untie the ties from your head or remove the bands from your ears.
- Remove the mask by the straps. Do not touch the front or inside of the mask (the part over your nose and mouth). It may be contaminated from your breathing, coughing or sneezing. If you touch the mask, wash your hands.
- Wash your hands.
- Wash your hands each time you put on and take off your mask.
- Avoid touching the front of your mask while you’re wearing it. If you do, wash your hands.
- Do NOT pull the mask down to expose your nose or mouth. Adjust the mask using the ties on your head or cords around your ears.
Daily activities and going out
In general, the closer you are to others and the longer the time you are with them, the higher the risk of spreading COVID-19. If you decide to go out in public, protect yourself by following the guidelines under "What can I do to keep myself, my family and friends safe?"
If it has been two weeks since you received your second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine or your single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you are considered “fully vaccinated”. However, some consider that people are only fully vaccinated after they have received a booster. You are more protected from highly transmissible strains if you are fully boosted, so consider this when reviewing the guidelines below.
Includes fully vaccinated SCCA patients who:
- Have not yet started treatment
- Are in active treatment
- Have recently completed treatment
- Have weakened immune symptoms, for example, allogeneic and autologous transplant patients
Guidance for cancer patients
These patients should remain cautious. Although you may hear that others may get together after getting vaccinated, people with cancer are more vulnerable. We don’t know how well the vaccines work in people with cancer, particularly those who are on active treatment.
Until we know more about the effectiveness of vaccines in cancer patients, fully vaccinated people with cancer should continue to:
- Wear a well-fitted mask and practicing physical distancing when in public.
- Wear masks, practice physical distancing and follow other prevention measures when visiting with unvaccinated people outside of your household.
- Avoid in-person gatherings with those outside your household.
- Avoid airline travel.
- Get tested if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
How you can help
Blood supply in the region is low due to cancellations of blood drives and COVID-related closures of schools, businesses and events. A healthy blood supply is vital to cancer treatment. If you are healthy and able, please consider donating blood or spreading the word about our current need. Find out more about donating blood at Bloodworks Northwest.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Washington State Department of Health
- Washington State COVID-19 information
- SCCA patient education handouts
- American Cancer Society (ACS): Coronavirus, COVID-19, and Cancer
- CancerCare®: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resources
- Cancer.Net: Coronavirus 2019, What People With Cancer Need to Know
- Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS): Coronavirus resources and what you should know
- Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PANCAN): Frequently Asked Questions About Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) and Pancreatic Cancer