Cancer fight, age has made Colin Powell vulnerable to COVID


Former US Secretary of State Colin Powell greets President Barack Obama’s arrival at Benjamin Banneker College High School in Washington, DC on October 17, 2016 (AFP / YURI GRIPAS)

Despite his COVID-19 vaccination, Colin Powell remained vulnerable to the virus due to his advanced age and history of cancer, underscoring the continued risk for many Americans until more of the population be immune.

Powell, a four-star general who went on to become the first black secretary of state and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, died of complications from COVID-19 on Monday. Powell, 84, had been treated in recent years for multiple myeloma, a blood cancer that impairs the body’s ability to fight infections – and respond well to vaccines.

COVID-19 vaccines are very effective against hospitalization and death, and the unvaccinated are about 11 times more likely to die from the coronavirus. But they’re not perfect, and experts stress that widespread vaccination is essential to give an extra layer of protection to the most vulnerable.

“The more people vaccinated, the less viral spread we have in the community, the less chance people like him will get infected to start,” said Dr Mangala Narasimhan, head of intensive care at Northwell Health. At New York.

Additionally, people with weakened immune systems due to diseases like cancer – or cancer treatments – don’t always get the same level of protection from vaccines as healthier people. Several studies have shown that as few as 45% of people with multiple myeloma can develop protective levels of coronavirus antibodies after receiving the vaccine.

Age is also a risk, especially months after someone has been vaccinated for the first time. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has tracked declines in protection, especially among older Americans who were among the first people vaccinated last winter. Reduced protection is the result of waning immunity or the extra-contagious delta variant.

Dr Ed Lifshitz, medical director of the Communicable Disease Department of the New Jersey Department of Health, challenged those who might point to Powell’s death to oppose the vaccination.

“My answer is really the opposite,” he said. “The way you are helping the most vulnerable is by not letting the virus get to them in the first place, and the best way to do that is to go out there and get the shot.”

The US government has authorized an extra dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines for people with weakened immune systems in an attempt to improve their response.

And last month, U.S. health officials called for booster doses of the Pfizer vaccine for all people 65 years of age and older once they are at least six months after their initial vaccination, as well as for others at high levels. risk. Recalls are also being considered for recipients of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

It was not clear if Powell had received an extra dose.

Kathy Giusti, founder of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, recalled meeting Powell when he spoke to the advocacy group about his diagnosis in 2019, and that he “was in touch with every patient, caregiver and doctor in the room “.

In a statement, she said that in addition to vaccinations, cancer patients should consider other precautions such as staying with masks and avoiding crowds.

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