Coronavirus Update

INFORMATION FOR OUR PATIENTS ABOUT COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

The safety and well-being of our patients, physicians, nurses and other team members is our top priority. Due to the recent spike in COVID-19 cases throughout the state, and with flu season starting, Florida Cancer Specialists (FCS) is reinstituting our No Visitor Policy in all clinical and office locations.

Until further notice, we are requesting that no visitors enter our FCS locations, with the exception of essential caregivers who assist patients with transport, translation or other personal needs, and personnel who deliver crucial supplies and medications.

COVID no visitors

At Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute (FCS), we are continuing our efforts to safeguard the health and safety of our patients, physicians and staff as this pandemic evolves. We are providing care to our patients in our clinics and Drug Development units with minimal disruptions, and are pleased to share the following updates:

Telehealth Appointments Available

Telehealth services are now available to patients at all FCS sites. With a simple web link using either a computer or cell phone, patients can connect with their FCS physician or other care providers safely and securely, and without a trip to the office. It’s also helping to reduce the potential spread or exposure to illness.

While telehealth is not suitable for every patient, your FCS physician or other care providers will determine whether you are a good fit, and the office will contact you to schedule your telehealth appointment and provide instructions. Telehealth visits are covered by most insurance plans; you may pay the same or possibly less than an in-office visit.

FCS was among the first cancer care providers in Florida to make this resource so widely available to patients.

What you need to know when you visit our FCS clinics:

  • When you receive your patient reminder call, please listen carefully, as the recorded message contains important information you need to know before you arrive.
  • If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms such as a fever above 100.4 degrees, cough or runny nose or if you feel short of breath, please call your primary care physician and call our office before coming for your scheduled appointment.

Whenever possible, we are rescheduling non-critical appointments, such as six-month and annual follow-ups, until after May 1.

Visitor Restrictions:

Until further notice, we are requesting that no visitors enter our FCS clinics, with the exception of caregivers who assist patients with transport, translation or other personal needs, and personnel who deliver essential supplies and medications.

Use of Masks:

Everyone entering our clinic locations is asked to wear a protective face mask or face covering (homemade masks are acceptable for patients and visitors). We will provide a mask to patients and approved visitors who do not have one. Our staff members are wearing masks as well.

Patient Screening:

Upon arrival, we will take your temperature and ask a series of questions in an effort to identify anyone who may have been exposed to COVID-19 or who has signs and symptoms of respiratory illness. Screenings are conducted with all patients and approved visitors, and with each staff member at the start and end of their shift. Our clinic team is trained to respond swiftly and appropriately to anyone demonstrating symptoms of illness or potential exposure to the coronavirus.

Other ways we are working to ensure your continued care and safety:

  • Our clinics and offices are being cleaned and sanitized throughout the day to reduce the risk of infection. Unnecessary items, such as magazines and newspapers, have been removed.
  • We are continuing our efforts to obtain necessary inventory of equipment and supplies, masks and other protective equipment. Our FCS procurement team remains in close contact with our suppliers and pharmaceutical distributors and manufacturers. We are not experiencing any disruptions in drug supplies at this time.
  • Our Rx To Go Pharmacy continues to dispense medications and ensure timely delivery of oral oncolytic medications. We are continuing to provide research drugs to our patients participating in clinical trials.
  • Our central laboratory, pathology laboratory and clinical research operations remain open and available to support our clinics.
  • The majority of our administrative employees are working remotely from their homes with access to everything they need to continue supporting our patients and clinics.

A note about COVID-19 exposure:

Despite our diligent efforts to prevent the transmission of germs, there will be continued spread of COVID-19 in the weeks and months ahead. No one is immune.

Our stringent screening protocols at all FCS locations have been effective. To date, there have been isolated numbers of individuals in our locations who have tested positive for the virus. They are receiving appropriate care and follow-up monitoring.

Working with our FCS Occupational Health team, notifications are made promptly to anyone who may have had possible contact while in our FCS locations so that they can take the necessary and appropriate precautions and follow-up steps.

Thank you for your cooperation, patience and support!

The health and well-being of our patients and staff remain our top priority. Our FCS executive and physician leadership teams are constantly monitoring and updating our activities in response to this unprecedented and rapidly changing situation. We are confident in our ability to continue to serve our patients and communities with world-class care, close to home.

As always, we thank you for entrusting your care to FCS.

Local and National Patient Resources

People can find assistance with multiple needs from Wigs to home health, financial support to finding an online support group.

Click Here

We encourage you to stay informed and recommend: www.cdc.gov or floridahealth.gov.

FACTS ABOUT THE COVID-19 VACCINE

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. This is an important milestone. The combination of vaccinations and ongoing compliance with Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations (e.g., use of masks, regular handwashing and physical distancing) offers the best protection from COVID-19.

The short Q&A below has been developed by our FCS clinical experts to address many common questions about the vaccines. We will continue to provide updates as more information becomes available.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?

Yes. The COVID-19 vaccines have been carefully evaluated in clinical trials and were authorized for use because they have been shown to substantially minimize the risk of getting COVID-19.

Based on what we know about vaccines for other diseases and early data from clinical trials, experts believe that getting a COVID-19 vaccine may also prevent serious illness even if you do get COVID-19.

Which vaccine is best?

Both of the available vaccines are 90 – 95% effective and administered as a series of two doses: Pfizer doses are three weeks apart; Moderna doses are four weeks apart. They are not interchangeable, meaning after receiving your first dose you should receive the second dose of the same vaccine to complete the series.  The comparison is similar to a recipe where there are similar ingredients that yield the same result with no significant difference.

What are the side effects?

Potential side effects are minimal for most people and should go away in a few days. General side effects can include pain, tenderness and swelling in the arm of the injection or flu-like symptoms, such as fatigue, headache, muscle pain, joint pain, chills, nausea, vomiting and fever.   

Talk with your doctor if you have had a severe allergic reaction after a previous vaccine or if you are allergic to any ingredients of this vaccine.  Severe reactions are isolated and further review is underway.

Is the new COVID-19 vaccine safe for cancer patients or others with compromised immune systems? 

While the immunization of cancer patients is still in review, the CDC is recommending that cancer patients be vaccinated. Based on experience with other similar types of vaccines, no major side effects or unique side effects have been reported in immunocompromised patients.  However, the vaccine may not be as effective for persons with cancer and other conditions.  The decision is best made in consultation with each patient’s individual health care provider and care team.

How do I know if it is safe for me?

It is true that, in the past, vaccines have taken years to develop. Scientists now know a lot about vaccine strategy, thanks to decades of development and experience. Additional resources were provided from many countries to assist with the COVID-19 vaccine. No stages of development were skipped, but they did occur simultaneously. An important fact is that these vaccines do not use the live virus and will not cause COVID-19.  

How is the vaccine being distributed?

Because the current supply in the United States is limited, initial supplies are being offered first to healthcare personnel, followed by essential non-healthcare workers including first responders, and then to adults with high-risk medical conditions and those over age 65.

Does FCS have vaccine available for patients?

Our Procurement team is working to assess what quantity of the vaccine may be available to us and when. We will communicate further details to our patients as that information becomes available.

Who will pay for my vaccine?

The vaccines are being given within the U.S. at no cost. However, vaccination providers are allowed to charge an administrative fee for giving the shots.

Do people who have tested positive for COVID-19 need to be vaccinated?

The vaccine is recommended for all persons regardless of their history of COVID-19 infection.

While we welcome the protection that COVID-19 vaccines will provide, it will be important for everyone to continue using all of the tools available to us to help stop the spread of the coronavirus  -- covering your mouth and nose with a mask, washing hands often, avoiding crowds and staying at least six feet away from others.