As a person living with WM, you may have concerns about how your life might be impacted by COVID-19. Here, we answer your questions. Remember, we’re here to help if you need more information or want to share concerns – contact us any time.

Last updated: 23 September

On this page you can find information about:

What is COVID-19 and how does it affect people living with WM?

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a virus that affects the respiratory system and can cause lung infections. Like the common cold, COVID-19 infection usually occurs through close contact with a person with the virus, via cough, sneezes or hand contact. It is also known as coronavirus.

What are the symptoms?

The main symptoms of COVID-19 are a high temperature, a new, continuous cough, and a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste.

If you have any of these symptoms, you should get a PCR test and isolate until you feel better or you have a negative test result.

How does having WM affect my risk of infection?

Although having WM doesn’t put you at a higher risk of getting COVID-19, you are at a higher risk of having complications or becoming seriously ill if you do come into contact with the virus. This is because WM affects the body’s immune system and ability to fight infections.

There are also many other factors that increase your risk of serious illness such as age, ethnicity, sex or weight.

Watch our COVID-19 webinar with Dr Dima El-Sharkawi.

Does being on treatment affect my risk?

It depends, as some treatments might increase the risk more than others. It’s important to talk to your medical team about your particular treatment and risks associated with this, versus the effects of not going on treatment.

I was previously treated for my WM but am no longer on treatment, am I still at risk?

Again, this depends on a lot of factors, for example what your treatment was, how long ago you stopped treatment and your current health. Talking to your medical team about any concerns you have will help you understand your personal risk.

Can COVID-19 be treated?

A new drug called Ronapreve has been made available on the NHS for those in hospital with COVID-19 who have not mounted an antibody response. This includes people who immunocompromised, like people living with WM.

If you aren’t seriously ill with COVID-19, the symptoms can be treated at home, much like you would treat the flu. The NHS 111 online coronavirus service has the most up to date information.

The COVID-19 vaccine

What vaccines are available in the UK?

There are currently four vaccines available in the UK, which have all been approved by the UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). They are:

  • Pfizer – the first vaccine to have been approved in December 2020. This has two doses
  • AstraZeneca – the second to have been approved in December 2020. Also a double dose vaccine
  • Moderna – Approved in January 2021 and given in two doses
  • Janssen – Approved in May 2021. This is the only single dose vaccine available in the UK

All the vaccines give a high level of protection against COVID-19 and have been through rigorous testing to ensure they are safe.

You can read more on our COVID-19 vaccine pages.

Is it safe for people with WM?

All the vaccines available in the UK have been through rigorous testing to ensure that they are safe for use. Specialists say that the vaccine is safe for people living with cancer, and treatment can still go ahead if you’ve had the vaccine.

Read more about getting the vaccine and WM treatment.

Should I get the vaccine?

People with WM have a weakened immune system, meaning their bodies find it harder to fighter viruses and infections. Therefore, WM specialists advise that people living with the disease should get vaccinated when invited. If you have any specific concerns about your health and the vaccine, you should talk to your doctor.

What else should I know about the vaccine?

A third full dose of the vaccine is available to immunocompromised people, to further boost protection against the virus. You can find more about the third dose on our vaccine pages.

What changes to my treatment might occur because of COVID-19?

During the pandemic, many people with WM have seen changes to their general care. For example, most people have started to have telephone or video-conference calls with their consultant or medical team instead of travelling into hospital, which will put them – and others – at risk of infection. If your symptoms are improving or stable, you may find that you will have fewer scans than normal; this will help keep hospital visits to a minimum. If in doubt, check with your hospital about any changes in your appointments.

If you’re on treatment, your medical team will advise you on any changes to how it works. All essential or urgent cancer treatment will continue, but if your symptoms are mild or tolerable you may find that your treatment is deferred. This will be for your safety, as many treatments for WM weaken the immune system further and put you at risk of serious illness. Your medical team will discuss the risks and benefits of any changes with you so you can make an informed decision together.

Should I still get the flu vaccine?

The flu vaccine is still recommended to everyone living with WM.

Keeping safe

How can I minimise the risk of getting COVID-19?

We understand you might be nervous now that restrictions have been lifted. There are some ways to minimise your risk of coming into contact with the virus, though:

  • Consider meeting outside, as opposed to indoors
  • If you meet people indoors, keep windows and doors open to ventilate the space and minimise the risk of spreading the virus
  • Try to maintain distance between you and others. You can order a Distance Aware pack from Lymphoma Action to prompt people to keep their distance when you’re out and about
  • Try to avoid crowded spaces – for example go to the supermarket at less busy hours or shop online
  • Speak to your employer about your risk and ways to minimise it at the workplace, for example, working at home whenever possible
  • Wear a mask and wash your hands thoroughly

You can read more tips about keeping safe and reducing worry in our article about coming out of shielding.

How can I lessen the impact this is having on my mental health?

It’s natural that you might feel anxious or stressed about the pandemic and the uncertainty that it has brought with it. You might have had to change you routine, may not be seeing your consultant as much as you are used to, or meeting up with friends and family. This can all have an impact on your mental health.

There are few simple things you can do to look after your mental wellbeing:

  • Stay social. If you can’t or would rather not meet people in person, make time to catch up via video call or telephone. You can also join WMUK’s support groups to meet others in a similar position to you.
  • Stay active. You might be staying home far more than usual and missing out on sports or activities you used to do. It’s important to keep active, not just for physical health, but for mental health too. Try to get out to a local park when it’s less busy, do laps of your garden, or even light yoga or Pilates in your living room.
  • Try mindfulness or meditation. New to it? Don’t worry, you can join one of our monthly mindfulness sessions
  • Keep to healthy diet. The odd treat won’t do any harm, but try to stick to a balanced diet, as well as drinking enough water
  • Limit your news coverage. If it makes you anxious, you might want to limit yourself to reading, listening or watching the news for a certain amount of time – perhaps to only make sure you’re up to date with government guidance.

What to do if you get COVID-19

If you test positive for COVID-19 or have symptoms and are on treatment for WM, you should contact your key worker or chemotherapy helpline for advice.

Otherwise, you can seek advice from the NHS 111 online coronavirus service. You should self-isolate as soon as you get symptoms – do not visit a pharmacy, urgent care centre or hospital (unless advised by a healthcare professional or the 111 coronavirus service)

If you are seriously ill, call 999.