The death of former Secretary of State, Colin Powell from complications associated with Covid-19 even after full vaccination threw the medical community into dealing with series of questions. Does Gen. Powell’s death mean COVID-19 vaccines do not work? I got related questions from friends all over. It seems to me, that the question is untethered from reality as one can get. The question is brazenly dishonest. It left me breathless. That is one example of the annoying traits of concrete-thinking by conservatives. What kind of person believes that Gen Powell’s death from COVID means that vaccines do not work? We really need to stop dumbing the world down so that they can understand it. They arrogantly assume their ignorance is universal. A lot has been learnt from COVID-19, and that is…that we are all extremely interconnected and the choices and precautions we take can and will directly impact those around us. Nonetheless, I will try a short answer with a logical explanation. Powell’s death absolutely does not mean that the COVID-19 vaccines do not work. If anything, it is a sign that we need to do a better job at protecting people who are vulnerable. The most important way to protect at-risk people in your community is to get vaccinated yourself. This is not complicated.
I have gotten messages from anti-vaxxers gloating that the vaccine killed Gen. Colin Powell. They glossed over Powell’s overall health for the purpose of owning those of us who trust science. These are the facts, Gen. Powell had been treated for multiple myeloma, a blood borne form of cancer. Such cancers require aggressive treatment that destroys the immune system along with the cancer. Stem cell transplants are required to restore immune functions. I tell you; it is an extraordinarily grueling course of treatment and not approved for a senior citizen. Even those who achieve remission, are left with varying degrees of compromised immune system function. COVID-19 testing has confirmed many immune compromised patients have subpar immune response to COVID vaccines. They may not respond as well to the standard two-dose vaccine regimen of the messenger RNA vaccines. Hence the booster shots for those people and older people to help to protect them. That still does not mean it is 100%…especially when there are so many unvaccinated, who will not do the most basic things to protect themselves and other people.
Powell was infected with a break-through case of COVID somehow by somebody, he did not catch it from a toilet seat. Living in their alternate reality, anti-vaxxers demand a level of perfections from doctors and scientists and the vaccine that they never require of themselves, preferring to believe lies. Had Powell been a healthy 84-year-old without being immunocompromised because of his blood cancer and his having Parkinson’s that negatively impacts his respiratory system, he would have survived a break-through case of COVID. But again, Powell was infected somehow by somebody who was infected with COVID and shedding the virus even if they were asymptomatic. Vaccines are just another level of protection. You wear a helmet when on a motorcycle or seat belt in the car. Will you never be in a car or fall off your motorcycle? Maybe not! So anti-vaxxers (most of whom are vaccinated for everything else) stop cutting your nose off to spite your face. If you cannot explain the impact that a warming climate has on our ecosystem, the importance of vaccines to beating a pandemic, good luck trying to parse out the intricacies of how multiple myeloma compromises a human immune system and its ability to produce neutralizing antibodies. The public is ignorant to anything science and trying to explain why a single data point of an 84-year-old man with a compromised immune system does not represent efficacy across a population is about as useful as showing a picture of oxygen to a drowning man. Save your breath man!
Dr. Osy Ekwueme MD,Ph.D. Is a physician in Wisconsin. USA