Colin Powell, a retired general and former U.S. Secretary of State, passed away on Oct. 18 at the age of 84 according to an announcement from his family. He died due to “complications from COVID-19.” Powell’s death comes despite the fact that he was fully vaccinated against the virus.
Born in 1937 in New York, Powell served a 35-year term in the U.S. Army during which time he took part in two tours in Vietnam. A Republican, Powell was part of three administrations.
Under the Ronald Reagan government, Powell acted as the National Security Advisor. He was the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during George H W Bush’s administration and the Secretary of State under the George W. Bush government.
During the 2020 presidential race, Powell triggered a controversy after he appeared at the Democratic National Convention to endorse Joe Biden rather than support Republican Donald Trump who was up for reelection.
His death has attracted a wave of condolences. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin stated that the world lost “one of the greatest leaders” adding that he lost “a tremendous personal friend and mentor.”
Powell “believed in the promise of America because he lived it and he devoted much of his life to making that promise a reality for so many others,” President Biden said in a statement.
“He was such a favorite of Presidents that he earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom – twice. He was highly respected at home and abroad. And most important, Colin was a family man and a friend. Laura and I send Alma and their children our sincere condolences as they remember the life of a great man,” Bush said in a statement.
Powell was afflicted with several health conditions prior to his death, including blood cancer “multiple myeloma” (MM) and Parkinson’s. Experts suggest that this could be a reason why the vaccines might not have been effective. It wasn’t revealed when Powell had received his doses, which vaccines were administered, and whether he had received a booster shot.
“The vaccines that we have, and he [Powell] evidently was fully vaccinated, are extraordinarily good against preventing death, hospitalization, and severe disease but they are not perfect… That is the very reason that we are engaging now in a national dialogue about booster doses,” Dr. Greg Poland, infectious diseases expert at the Mayo Clinic, told Fox News.
A study published in the Nature magazine in July this year looked at how patients with multiple myeloma responded to mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. The study found that 55 percent of MM patients failed to “fully respond” to vaccination. They did not always trigger substantial levels of vaccine-induced antibodies.
In an interview with CNN, Dr. Drew Pardoll, professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said that individuals affected by multiple myeloma are susceptible to a weakened immune system. This is because the cancer cells fill up the bone marrow and “crowd up” the cells which make up the immune system. Not only did cancer make it difficult for Powell to fight the COVID-19 virus, continued treatment could also have weakened his immune system further.
Elderly people are disproportionately affected by breakthrough cases, which refer to COVID-19 infections among people who are fully vaccinated against it. According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), 75 percent of people who are hospitalized as a result of breakthrough infection are individuals above the age of 65. The elderly also make up 85 percent of all deaths among breakthrough cases.