(CNN) – Former US Secretary of State Colin Powell died on Monday of Covid-19 complications.
His family announced that he was fully vaccinated. He was 84 years old, and had multiple myeloma, a blood cancer.
Health officials worry that anti-vaccine activists will seize upon Powell’s death to make the claim that vaccines don’t work. If you can still die after being vaccinated for Covid-19, what’s the point of getting the vaccine?
What’s the answer to that question? I discussed it with CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health.
Dr. Leana Wen: We need to start with the science and what the research shows. The Covid-19 vaccines are extraordinarily effective in preventing illness and especially severe disease.
“Covid-19 vaccines do not protect you 100%. No vaccine does, just like virtually no medical treatment is 100% effective.”
The most recent data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that they reduce the likelihood of testing positive for Covid-19 by six-fold and the likelihood of death by 11-fold. That’s really excellent.
However, the Covid-19 vaccines do not protect you 100%. No vaccine does, just like virtually no medical treatment is 100% effective. That doesn’t mean the vaccine doesn’t work, or that you shouldn’t take it.
CNN: Are some people more likely to have severe outcomes from Covid-19, despite vaccination?
Wen: Yes, and based on what have learned, General Powell fell into that category.
We know that individuals who are older and have underlying medical conditions are more likely to suffer severe illness and to die following breakthrough infections.
Those at particular risk are people who are immunocompromised. Having multiple myeloma would put General Powell into this category, and, in addition to his older age, would add to the level of risk … READ MORE.
What Scientists Know About the Risk of Breakthrough Covid Deaths
By Emily Anthes, Oct. 18, 2021
THE NEW YORK TIMES – The death of former Secretary of State Colin Powell on Monday from complications of Covid-19 has provided fuel for vaccine skeptics and opponents, who immediately seized on the news that Mr. Powell had been vaccinated to stoke doubts about the effectiveness of the vaccines.
But Mr. Powell’s immune system had quite likely been weakened by multiple myeloma, a cancer of white blood cells. Both the disease and the treatment can make people more susceptible to infections.
His age, 84, may also have increased his risk, scientists said.
Mr. Powell received his second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in February, said Peggy Cifrino, his longtime aide. He was scheduled for a booster last week but fell ill before he received it, she said. Mr. Powell had also undergone treatment for early stage Parkinson’s disease, she said.
Although Mr. Powell’s death is a high-profile tragedy, scientists emphasized that it should not undermine confidence in the Covid-19 vaccines, which drastically reduce the odds of severe disease and death … READ MORE [SUBSCRIPTION MAY BE REQUIRED.]