Colin Powell, the former US Secretary of State, died on Monday as a result of Covid-19 complications. His family stated that he had received all of his vaccinations. He was 84 years old and was suffering from multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer.
Health officials are concerned that anti-vaccine activists will use Powell’s death to claim that vaccines are ineffective. What’s the point of getting vaccinated for Covid-19 if you can still die afterward?
“We need to start with the science and what the research shows,” said Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health and author of the new book “Lifelines: A Doctor’s Journey in the Fight for Public Health.” The Covid-19 vaccines are extremely effective at preventing illness, particularly severe disease. According to the most recent data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they reduce the likelihood of testing positive for Covid-19 by six times and the likelihood of death by eleven times.”
That is, if you are vaccinated, you are six times less likely to contract Covid-19 than if you are not. In addition, you are 11 times less likely to die from Covid-19 than an unvaccinated person. That is truly outstanding.
However, the Covid-19 vaccines do not provide complete protection. There is no such thing as a vaccine, and almost no medical treatment is guaranteed to be 100 percent effective. That doesn’t mean the vaccine isn’t effective or that you shouldn’t get it.
According to what we know, General Powell falls into this category. We know that people who are older and have underlying medical conditions are more likely to develop severe illness and die as a result of a breakthrough infection. Immunocompromised individuals are particularly vulnerable. General Powell’s multiple myeloma would put him in this category, and his advanced age would add to the risk.
This is one of the reasons why booster shots are recommended. In August, federal health officials recommended that people who had the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines and had moderate or severe immunocompromise receive a third dose of the vaccine. They cautioned that even with the higher dose, immunocompromised people should take extra precautions. This is because this is a group of people who are particularly vulnerable to negative outcomes.
If you are in close proximity to a lot of viruses, your chances of becoming infected increase. The issue isn’t the vaccine; it’s that there’s too much virus in the environment.
That is why it is critical to vaccinate as many people as possible. As a result, the overall rate of infection is reduced, and everyone is protected. In addition, if you are in a virus-infested area, wearing a mask in crowded indoor areas adds an extra layer of protection.
Not to mention that we get vaccinated to protect the most vulnerable among us, who are at the greatest risk of severe outcomes. A six-month study of 13 states found that fully vaccinated people accounted for only 4% of all Covid-19 hospitalizations.
According to the CDC study, unvaccinated people are 17 times more likely than fully vaccinated adults to be hospitalized for coronavirus. Those who have breakthrough cases that necessitate hospitalization are more likely to be older and to have multiple underlying medical conditions, as previously discussed.
Let’s take prevention as an example. Assume that despite eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly, a person develops high blood pressure and diabetes. That isn’t to say that diet and exercise aren’t beneficial. It simply means that you can take all of the necessary precautions to avoid a disease, but you may still contract it.
According to a modeling study funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Covid-19 vaccines saved more than 139,000 lives in the first five months they were available. By May 9, there had been approximately 570,000 Covid-19 deaths in the United States. Without vaccines, there could have been 709,000 deaths.
The bottom line is that vaccines are effective. They reduce the chances of contracting disease, becoming seriously ill, and dying. They are not completely satisfied because nothing is.
Ultimately, the key to reducing everyone’s risk from Covid-19 — and to ending the pandemic — is for all of us to get vaccinated. This protects us, and those around us.