So reads the tragic headline from this CNBC article.
And they got it right. Sadly, while vaccines do work for the majority, they do not protect the most vulnerable population of those with impaired active immunity, even if one was a great soldier.
Blood cancer, such as multiple myeloma (MM) which General Powell had, or chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), impair the body’s ability to respond to vaccines. This explains why the immunocompromised have more than ten times the number of breakthrough infections post-vaccination than the general population.
The same lack of ability to fight off COVID-19 also explains why the immunocompromised get sicker and die more often with the infection.
Our cancer of the immune system is why we need to be prioritized for passive immunity with the anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies that could provide us with excellent therapy, and pre and post-exposure disease prevention options. Unlike those who choose not to get vaccinated when they have a safe and effective therapy available to them, we have no such choice because we often don’t form protective antibodies after most vaccinations, including those for COVID-19.
What Secretary Powell’s tragic passing, despite the hundreds of comments that say otherwise, doesn’t mean is:
- Vaccines don’t work. They work amazingly well for the 97% who have normal immunity. Moreover, if everyone who would benefit from vaccinations, got their shots, there would be fewer COVID-19 infections, less virus transmitted to others, and therefore, fewer needless deaths in the vulnerable immunocompromised community who would benefit the most from herd immunity.
- His cancer killed him. FALSE. The truth is COVID-19 was the cause of death. While it is true that his impaired immunity from his multiple myeloma did not protect him from contracting and fighting off COVID-19 and contributed to his death, it was the infection that killed him.
Will the death of a famous man wake up the public to the societal need to protect its most vulnerable? Honestly, I doubt it, but we can hope. We can try to raise awareness and encourage something that is desperately missing in these increasingly tribal times, compassion for each other.
Also, we can do more than hope. We can advocate for effective prophylaxis with protective anti-COVID-19 antibodies to protect those like the late Colin Powell who cannot make their own.
Stay strong. We are all in this together.
Brian Koffman MDCM (retired) MS Ed (he, him, his)
Co-Founder, Executive VP and Chief Medical Officer
CLL Society, Inc.