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BackgroundPeople with cancer are at increased risk of hospitalisation and death following infection with SARS-CoV-2. Therefore, we aimed to conduct one of the first evaluations of vaccine effectiveness against breakthrough SARS-CoV-2 infections in patients with cancer at a population level.MethodsIn this population-based test-negative case-control study of the UK Coronavirus Cancer Evaluation Project (UKCCEP), we extracted data from the UKCCEP registry on all SARS-CoV-2 PCR test results (from the Second Generation Surveillance System), vaccination records (from the National Immunisation Management Service), patient demographics, and cancer records from England, UK, from Dec 8, 2020, to Oct 15, 2021. Adults (aged ≥18 years) with cancer in the UKCCEP registry were identified via Public Health England's Rapid Cancer Registration Dataset between Jan 1, 2018, and April 30, 2021, and comprised the cancer cohort. We constructed a control population cohort from adults with PCR tests in the UKCCEP registry who were not contained within the Rapid Cancer Registration Dataset. The coprimary endpoints were overall vaccine effectiveness against breakthrough infections after the second dose (positive PCR COVID-19 test) and vaccine effectiveness against breakthrough infections at 3-6 months after the second dose in the cancer cohort and control population.FindingsThe cancer cohort comprised 377 194 individuals, of whom 42 882 had breakthrough SARS-CoV-2 infections. The control population consisted of 28 010 955 individuals, of whom 5 748 708 had SARS-CoV-2 breakthrough infections. Overall vaccine effectiveness was 69·8% (95% CI 69·8-69·9) in the control population and 65·5% (65·1-65·9) in the cancer cohort. Vaccine effectiveness at 3-6 months was lower in the cancer cohort (47·0%, 46·3-47·6) than in the control population (61·4%, 61·4-61·5).InterpretationCOVID-19 vaccination is effective for individuals with cancer, conferring varying levels of protection against breakthrough infections. However, vaccine effectiveness is lower in patients with cancer than in the general population. COVID-19 vaccination for patients with cancer should be used in conjunction with non-pharmacological strategies and community-based antiviral treatment programmes to reduce the risk that COVID-19 poses to patients with cancer.FundingUniversity of Oxford, University of Southampton, University of Birmingham, Department of Health and Social Care, and Blood Cancer UK.

Original publication




Journal article


The Lancet. Oncology

Publication Date





748 - 757


Department of Oncology, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK; Institute of Cancer and Genomic Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK. Electronic address:


NCRI Consumer Forum, Humans, Neoplasms, Viral Vaccines, Case-Control Studies, Adolescent, Adult, COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, COVID-19 Vaccines, Vaccine Efficacy