Guidance for people with lymphoma at higher risk of serious illness

Some people are considered to be at higher risk of becoming seriously ill if they develop COVID-19. This includes many people affected by lymphoma.

View the full government guidelines for higher risk people in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

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Am I at higher risk of becoming seriously ill?

What can I do to protect myself if I am?

Coronavirus vaccination for higher risk people


Am I at higher risk of becoming seriously ill if I get COVID-19?

You might be at higher risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19 if you have a particular medical condition that increases your risk, or because of other factors such as your age, ethnicity, sex or weight. People who have cancer of the blood or bone marrow, such as lymphoma, leukaemia or myeloma, who are at any stage of treatment, are considered to be at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19. This includes people before, during and after treatment.

For people with lymphoma, this includes the following:

Before treatment

People who are on active monitoring (watch and wait) for low-grade lymphoma (including chronic lymphocytic leukaemia).

During treatment

People who are currently having treatment for any type of lymphoma.

(Patients on treatment should follow the standard neutropenic sepsis pathways and telephone for clinical advice as stated by their chemotherapy unit prior to commencing treatment.)

After treatment

COVID-19 is a new illness and at present, there is limited scientific evidence to guide decisions on exactly who is at high risk of severe disease. Public Health England recommends that anybody who has had treatment for lymphoma is considered higher risk but does not give a time frame for how long ago the treatment was.

A consensus of UK lymphoma specialists agree that it is sensible for people who have low-grade non-Hodgkin lymphoma to take precautions to lower their risk even if they have not required treatment for many years.

If you were successfully treated for Hodgkin lymphoma or high-grade non-Hodgkin lymphoma many years ago and your lymphoma has not come back, the situation is more complicated. Your GP or specialist will consider lots of factors to help determine if you might be at higher risk of serious illness due to COVID-19. This includes:

  • the specific type of lymphoma you had
  • how long ago you were treated
  • the exact treatment you had
  • any late effects of treatment you might be at risk of
  • any other medical conditions you have
  • your individual circumstances (for example, your living situation or your occupation).

Your GP or specialist will offer advice that is specific to you.

If you have had a splenectomy, you are considered at higher risk of serious illness.

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What should I do to protect myself if I am extremely vulnerable?

If you are at higher risk, you should have been contacted by the NHS or your GP telling you, and advising you on steps you can take to protect yourself. Your specialist can also advise you if they think you are at high risk of serious illness if you catch coronavirus.

You should follow any specific advice your medical team gives you. The government has also produced advice for higher risk people. This varies depending on where you live. We have separate webpages covering:

You can also view the full government guidance for higher risk people for the nation where you live: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales.

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Coronavirus vaccination for higher risk people

Higher risk people are a priority group for coronavirus vaccination. Depending on your individual circumstances, you might also be eligible for a third primary dose. If you are not, you will still be eligible for a booster dose.

A consensus of UK lymphoma specialists recommend that all patients with lymphoma should receive a non-replicating COVID-19 vaccine, unless there are particular reasons they can't have it (for example, if they've had serious allergic reactions in the past). The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, Oxford/AztraZeneca vaccine and Moderna vaccine are all non-replicating. These vaccines might not achieve full protection for people who have lowered immunity, and vaccination of close contacts is also likely to be beneficial.

After having the vaccine, it is important to carry on taking appropriate measures to reduce your risk of infection.

Please visit our separate webpage on the coronavirus vaccination programme for more detailed information. We also have information on the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccination in people with lymphoma and a third primary dose of vaccines for people with severely lowered immune systems.

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