Colin Powell was fully vaccinated, but he still died from COVID complications. How rare is that?

Written by on October 18, 2021

Many People had been shocked to be taught of Colin Powell’s death from COVID-19-related complications Monday, particularly as a result of the previous secretary of state and retired four-star common was absolutely vaccinated towards the illness.

“We’ve misplaced a exceptional and loving husband, father, grandfather and an ideal People,” Powell’s household mentioned in its assertion.

Though dying from COVID-19 is extraordinarily unusual among the many absolutely vaccinated, well being consultants say age and preexisting medical situations could enhance the percentages of breakthrough an infection, extreme illness and even dying.

Newly released data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals absolutely vaccinated individuals 80 and older are about as prone to die from a COVID-19 an infection as unvaccinated individuals of their 50s and early 60s.  

The CDC additionally experiences that as of Oct. 12, 7,178 deaths amongst vaccinated individuals; 85% of the deaths are in individuals 65 and older.

At 84, well being consultants say, Powell fell into this high-risk group.

“As we become old, our immune system is weaker and it’s much less prone to reply appropriately to vaccinations, and we’re extra prone to get unwell once we do get uncovered to an infection,” mentioned Dr. Kristin Englund, an infectious illness skilled on the Cleveland Clinic. “That’s why very early on we focused vaccines for our aged inhabitants.”

As a result of older individuals had been a number of the first People to get vaccinated, she mentioned, it’s potential Powell’s immunity could have waned over time, though it’s not clear precisely when he obtained his first shot.

Analysis means that could also be taking place amongst different populations, too. A study in August from the CDC confirmed vaccine effectiveness decreased amongst well being care employees who had been absolutely vaccinated for the reason that time the delta coronavirus variant turned widespread. 

However the odds of dying are nonetheless a lot worse if the particular person is unvaccinated. Unvaccinated individuals 80 and older are about six instances extra prone to die from a COVID-19 an infection than vaccinated individuals in the identical age group, CDC information reveals.

Powell could have additionally had a number of myeloma, according to media reports, which is a sort of blood most cancers that impacts the physique’s immune system. Well being consultants say that undoubtedly would have performed a job in his potential to battle off an infection.

“He had a most cancers of his white blood cells, and people are the a number of the cells that we have to assist battle infections,” Englund mentioned. “Sometimes it impacts the B-cells within the white blood cells that assist us kind antibodies and immunity.”

Myeloma is extra generally seen in individuals over 60, mentioned Dr. Don Benson, hematologist-oncologist at The Ohio State College Complete Most cancers Middle.

Who was Colin Powell?:First Black secretary of state dies from COVID complications.

His profession:The storied, complicated legacy of Colin Powell – including his WMDs regret

Roughly 35,00zero instances of myeloma are reported within the U.S. annually. Though it’s thought of an incurable most cancers, most sufferers don’t die from the illness itself.

“Far and away the most typical reason behind dying is definitely an infection,” Benson mentioned. “Each the illness and the remedies that we use will both suppress or dysregulate their immune operate and make them extra prone to not simply COVID however bacterial and different viral infections.” 

To raised shield susceptible populations, the Food and Drug Administration authorized a third COVID-19 vaccine shot in August for individuals with severely weakened immune programs.

That made roughly 2.7 million immunocompromised People eligible to obtain a 3rd shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, together with those that are in most cancers therapy, acquired organ transplants or are taking immunosuppressive remedy. 

The company additionally licensed a booster shot of the Pfizer vaccine in September for individuals 65 and older, youthful adults with underlying well being situations and people in jobs that put them at excessive danger for an infection. Greater than 8.Eight million individuals have acquired a Pfizer booster since its authorization.

Final week, an FDA advisory committee voted to assist a half-dose booster shot of the Moderna vaccine for related populations. The panel also decided Friday that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine needs to be thought of a two-dose vaccine moderately than the one-and-done shot that had acquired preliminary authorization.

Powell’s household didn’t say whether or not he acquired a 3rd shot. However Englund mentioned it’s troublesome to invest whether or not it will have prevented an infection.

“He had a really troublesome blood most cancers that he has been preventing. Whether or not he would have had an satisfactory response to a booster is unclear,” she mentioned. “We don’t know his standing of a number of myeloma, and we don’t know if a booster would have helped him.”

What would have helped, Englund mentioned, is that if extra People had been absolutely vaccinated. Powell’s dying is a vital reminder to get vaccinated, not solely to guard your self, but in addition to guard susceptible populations similar to the aged and people with immunocompromising situations, she mentioned.

“If we may all do our half like he did all through his total life to serve People and get vaccinated, then perhaps we may have constructed a hoop of safety round him so he would have by no means been uncovered to COVID,” she mentioned. “He served his nation the very best he may, and now it’s our responsibility to do the identical.”

Contributing: Mike Stucka, USA TODAY. Observe Adrianna Rodriguez on Twitter: @AdriannaUSAT.

Well being and affected person security protection at USA TODAY is made potential partially by a grant from the Masimo Basis for Ethics, Innovation and Competitors in Healthcare. The Masimo Basis doesn’t present editorial enter.


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