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(NEW YORK) – The death of former Secretary of State Colin Powell due to complications from COVID-19 has sparked conversations about groundbreaking deaths among those vaccinated.
However, it would be inaccurate to draw conclusions about the efficacy of the vaccine from a single breakthrough death such as that of Powell, who was 84 years old, immunocompromised and being treated for multiple myeloma, a blood-borne cancer. which “in itself can lead to compromised immunity,” Dr. Todd Ellerin, director of infectious diseases at South Shore Medical Center in Massachusetts, told ABC News.
In a statement, Dr Paul Richardson, director of clinical research at the Jerome Lipper Multiple Myeloma Center at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, said patients with myeloma are “not only vulnerable to infection, but once infected, they are more prone to serious complications. including vascular effects and profound immune dysfunction.
Dr Craig Devoe, chief of medical oncology and hematology at Northwell Health in New York City, said myeloma not only placed patients at a higher risk of serious disease, but could also have put them at a disadvantage. immune system to fight COVID-19 even when fully immunized “because the disease and the treatment itself are highly immunosuppressive”.
According to his spokesperson, Powell was fully vaccinated and was being treated for myeloma, which is not curable. She was also recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, which itself can be disabling depending on the stage.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been about 7,000 deaths among the 187 million Americans vaccinated, including more than 6,000 over the age of 65, unlike the over 700,000 deaths from COVID-19 among the unvaccinated.
“Without a doubt, we can expect deaths,” Ellerin said. “It’s much more common in the unvaccinated than in the vaccinated. But we are seeing breakthrough vaccine deaths, especially in the elderly – patients 80 and older – or those who are immunocompromised. “
No one who receives a COVID-19 vaccine is 100% protected against death, but vaccines have been shown to be extremely effective in reducing the risk of contracting the disease.
The CDC recently updated its website with data showing that vaccines still significantly reduce the risk of testing positive or dying from COVID-19 amid the latest delta wave. Although there has been a slight increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths since July 2021, the increase is more pronounced among unvaccinated people.
In August, unvaccinated people were 6.1 times more likely to test positive for COVID-19 and 11.3 times more likely to die from COVID-19 compared to those vaccinated, according to federal data from 16 States and jurisdictions.
“[A breakthrough vaccine death] is not an argument for “not getting the vaccine,” Ellerin said. “It’s an argument for ‘getting vaccinated because it’s the best way to reduce the risk of death. “”
In addition, when disaggregated by age, death rates in each age group were higher among unvaccinated populations. Older Americans (80 and older) had the highest death rate among fully vaccinated people per capita, although their risk of death was about 5.7 times lower than their unvaccinated counterparts in the same group. ‘age.
Among groundbreaking deaths, the United States is currently seeing what Ellerin calls the “precarious triangle” of risk factors – old age, the underlying diseases that lead to immunosuppression, and treatments for those diseases – that make individuals more susceptible to serious COVID-19 infections.
Vaccinated people who find themselves at the intersection of these risk areas should also prioritize non-pharmaceutical interventions, such as masking indoors and optimizing ventilation, experts say.
Dr Edward Stadtmauer, director of the myeloma program at the University of Pennsylvania, told ABC News that the best way for cancer patients to prevent COVID-19 infection or limit its severity is to do vaccinate.
“If you have abnormal plasma cells to begin with, or if you are receiving treatment that might remove or damage the plasma cells, you can see why this group of patients may have the most difficulty responding to a COVID infection and responding to vaccines,” did he declare.
Stadtmauer said he sees around 70% of myeloma patients generate COVID-19 neutralizing antibodies after vaccination.
“If there is one group of patients that should be vaccinated and given a booster, it is that group of patients,” he said.
On September 22, the Food and Drug Administration authorized Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine recalls for people 65 years of age and older and those at risk. Powell himself was due to receive the booster the week he fell ill with COVID-19, his spokesperson said.
“None of these strategies are perfect, but you have the best chance of survival,” Ellerin said.
The misuse of the news of Powell’s death to spread misinformation about vaccine failure and discourage individuals from getting vaccinated may be damaging to people with compromised immunity, experts say, who say to protect people with the disease. underlying diseases, it is imperative that everyone around them get vaccinated to curb the spread of COVID-19.
“I hope his life and the fact that he believed in immunization can be a catalyst for many more to get it,” Ellerin said.
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