RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – After spending a lifetime as a public servant, former Secretary of State Colin Powell died at age 84 as a result of COVID-19 complications. General Powell was fully vaccinated against the virus but had underlying conditions.
“This is an incredibly sad day, the loss of a remarkable leader, and certainly one who did everything he could to protect his health by being vaccinated, setting an example,” said Dr. Lisa Pickett, chief medical officer at Duke Hospital.
Powell was not only in a vulnerable age group but battled blood cancer. The CDC has found people with comorbidities like cancers may not build up enough response from the COVID-19 vaccines.
The FDA and CDC have recommended a booster shot for Pfizer recipients who are immunocompromised or at higher risk for infection or exposure. Moderna along with Johnson and Johnson may be days away from receiving the same recommendation.
A third-party FDA advisory panel voted in favor of boosters for Johnson & Johnson as well as Moderna last week. The next step will be for the FDA director to sign off for that agency. They usually go along with what the advisory panel recommends. We’ll see a repeat of this Wednesday when a CDC panel takes up the issue. The director of the CDC also gets the final say and typically agrees with the panel. This means we could see booster expansions by the end of next week.
Pickett said Powell’s death should not be used to make a case against vaccination. The latest data from the CDC shows unvaccinated people are still six times more likely to test positive for COVID-19 and 11 times more likely to die from it.
“Vaccination is not perfect but it is the best way to protect yourself from significant illness and protect those around you,” said Pickett.
She said Powell’s death is an example of why people should continue to be careful after vaccination.
“It really enforces the importance of driving down the amount of virus in our environment, so that those who have so many comorbidities, that despite vaccination, can’t mount an appropriate response to a vaccine, are not able to be around the virus and get infected and die,” she said.
Pickett said getting vaccinated may not only protects you and those around you right now but may also provide protection in the future.
“If everyone is vaccinated, that just decreases the amount of virus around, they can mutate and form the next variant,” Pickett said.