Could the death of Colin Powell from a breakthrough case of COVID-19 make it even more challenging to convince anti-vaxxers to get their shot?
That’s the question some are asking in response to the news of the passing of the former U.S. Secretary of State. Powell had been vaccinated, according to a statement from his family posted on Facebook
but nevertheless contracted and succumbed to COVID-19.
Jennifer Kates, a senior vice president with the Kaiser Family Foundation, which researches and tracks health subjects, said Powell’s death could “cement” the views of some in the anti-vaccination camp.
“Different pieces of information are maybe going to make them dig in their heels,” she said.
Health officials have always warned that the vaccines could never guarantee 100% protection from the virus. And breakthrough cases indeed happen, though they are still apparently not the norm.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that more than 187 million Americans have been vaccinated to date and that it has received reports of 31,895 breakthrough cases, with 7,178 deaths resulting from those cases.
The CDC has said, however, that it is difficult to track breakthrough rates, given that the statistics don’t necessarily take into account fully vaccinated individuals who have had an asymptomatic or mild breakthrough case. The data is “not complete or representative,” the CDC said.
Powell had other factors, including his age (84) and underlying medical conditions — he suffered from multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer — that made him more at risk from dying due to COVID-19.
“‘Overwhelmingly the deaths that occur with COVID are in unvaccinated people.’”
— Mitch Katz, chief executive officer of New York City’s hospital system
Still, among some who are resistant to getting the COVID-19 vaccine, Powell’s death is being taken as an indication of problems with the shot, as least judging from some comments on social media. As one person tweeted
: “So what’s the point of the vaccine?”
Health officials are already countering, however, that Powell’s death sends the message that it’s more important than ever for people to get vaccinated — and to receive a booster, if eligible — since the shots nevertheless afford a strong level of protection against what is a potentially fatal virus.
The vaccine reduces the likelihood of hospitalization and death should you contract the virus, studies show, and it also reduces the chances of you passing COVID-19 onto a more vulnerable friend or relative.
Those who were unvaccinated were still 4.5 times more likely than the fully vaccinated to get infected, over 10 times more likely to be hospitalized and 11 times more likely to die, according to the CDC.
“Certainly no treatment is perfect,” said Mitch Katz, chief executive officer of New York City’s hospital system, at a Monday press conference. “(But) when you look at the data, what you see is overwhelmingly the deaths that occur with COVID are in unvaccinated people.”
At the same time, health officials are others are also sounding the call that Powell’s death is a reminder to stay vigilant even after being vaccinated, and to keep in mind the need for masking, especially in indoor situations with other people.
“Vaccines alone at this stage in the pandemic are not enough,” said Kates of the Kaiser Family Foundation.