How COVID-19 complications killed an immunocompromised Colin Powell

Local News

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Colin Powell died this week from COVID-19 complications; the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and secretary of state was also fully vaccinated. These two realities don’t contradict each other.

The body’s immune system is a defense against disease or infection. If someone is immunocompromised, like Powell was, their immune system is weaker. Powell had multiple myeloma, a cancer in cells which guard the body from infection.

“Colin Powell does not have the ability to form antibodies, and additionally he was being treated for his multiple myeloma which is immunosuppressive and so you have both of these going at the same time, and so he is unable to protect himself despite vaccination,” said Dr. Shankar Kurra, vice president of medical affairs with Monument Health.

“We gave him the best chance we could, but it still was not enough because there just wasn’t enough immune system there to promote,” said Dr. David Basel, vice president of clinical quality with Avera Medical Group.

Kurra and Basel each highlight how well the vaccines work.

“The vast majority of people coming into the hospital with COVID right now are unvaccinated individuals, and they’re younger unvaccinated individuals, a totally different population than what we saw last year,” Basel said. “And so it’s very clear that the vaccine’s having an effect in protecting the elderly and protecting those more at-risk people.”

“The vaccines are extremely effective,” Kurra said. “How we know that is both by real-world data which shows that the folks that are vaccinated, they’re protected anywhere from 90% or higher. So in other words, vast majority of the people who get COVID-19 are unvaccinated.”

If you or someone you care about is immunocompromised, they have clear advice.

“First and foremost, if they haven’t gotten at least two shots, by all means, go out and get that ’cause that’s still, it’s giving you the best chance that we can,” Basel said. “You may note a less response than other individuals, that’s why we actually recommend a third dose in those individuals.”

“If you’re immunocompromised, either from cancers, immunosuppressive therapy or immune diseases, you absolutely must go get the booster,” Kurra said. “The other thing you need to do is stay protected, continue to wear the mask.”

The latest data from the South Dakota Department of Health said there were 195 people hospitalized with COVID-19.

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