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News outlets note former Secretary of State Colin Powell was battling multiple myeloma, which may have contributed to his death from covid complications — as would his age. Reports note that deaths from breakthrough infections like this remain very rare, and stress the ongoing risk to seniors.

NBC News: Age, Underlying Health Condition Were ‘Double Blow’ To Colin Powell, Experts Say

Fatal breakthrough Covid-19 infections among people who have been fully vaccinated, like former Secretary of State Colin Powell, are rare. But experts say such deaths show the need for society as a whole to protect its most vulnerable: those of advanced age and those with compromised immune systems. Powell, who died Monday of Covid complications, puts both criteria. The trailblazing public servant was 84 years old and had multiple myeloma, a blood cancer in which malignant plasma cells overtake the space usually reserved for normal plasma cells that fight off infections. (Chuck, 8/10)

CBS News: Myeloma May Have Made Colin Powell More Vulnerable To Dying Of COVID-19

After former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s death from complications of COVID-19, experts pointed out that the 84-year-old Powell had a history of medical conditions that significantly raised his risk of severe COVID-19, though he was fully vaccinated. Among them, Powell had multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer that, both by itself and as a result of treatments given for the disease, can weaken the immune system. “Myeloma patients, they make a lot of antibodies. But, they only make one type. So their ability to make normal antibodies to fend off infections is impaired. They also have T-cell, or cellular immunity, defects that contribute to their inability not only to fight off infections, but mount effective responses to vaccines,” said Dr. James Berenson, medical and scientific director of the Institute for Myeloma and Bone Cancer Research. (Tin, 10/19)

Bloomberg: Colin Powell’s Death From Breakthrough Covid Is Rare Event

Colin Powell died at age 84 from Covid-19 complications despite being fully vaccinated, his family announced on Monday. A decorated former general and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he was being treated at the Walter Reed National Medical Center. Powell, who previously underwent surgery for prostate cancer in 2003, had been diagnosed with multiple myeloma prior to falling ill with Covid-19. The available data show that such deaths are exceptionally rare. Out of the more than 187 million people who had been fully vaccinated in the US as of Oct. 12, 7,178, or 0.004%, had died from a breakthrough infection, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of that group, 85% were over the age of 65. (Short, 10/18)

The New York Times: What Scientists Know About The Risk Of Breakthrough Covid Deaths

Although Mr. Powell’s death is a high-profile tragedy, scientists emphasized that it should not undermine confidence in the Covid-19 vaccines, which drastically reduce the odds of severe disease and death. “Nothing is 100 percent effective,” said Dr. Paul A. Offit, the director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “The point of getting a vaccine is that you want to know that the benefits clearly and definitively outweigh the risks. And we know that for this vaccine.” (Anthes, 10/18)

The Washington Post: Colin Powell’s Death Is A Reminder That Vaccination Is About Every Person, Not Just One Person

Former secretary of state Colin L. Powell died Monday morning from complications related to covid-19. Powell’s disease resulted from a breakthrough infection; he was fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. But instead of demonstrating that the vaccine isn’t 100 percent effective in preventing death, which was known, his death better serves to show the need to tamp down on coronavirus cases more broadly to help protect those most at risk. That group included Powell. He was 84 years old when he died, well into the elderly age group that has been most ravaged by the virus. He had also been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, which can reduce the body’s ability to fight infections. (Bump, 10/18)

The Washington Post: ‘Don’t Feel Sorry For Me,’ Powell Said As The End Approached

As death approached, Colin L. Powell was still in fighting form. “I’ve got multiple myeloma cancer, and I’ve got Parkinson’s disease. But otherwise I’m fine,” he said in a July interview. And he rejected expressions of sorrow at his condition. “Don’t feel sorry for me, for God’s sakes! I’m [84] years old,” said Powell, who died Monday. “I haven’t lost a day of life fighting these two diseases. I’m in good shape.” (Woodward, 10/18)

In related news —

CNN: Seniors Are Particularly Vulnerable To Covid-19 But Just 1 In 7 Have Taken A Booster Shot

As the US tries to bring Covid-19 under control before a potential winter spike, health experts are encouraging vulnerable people to get a booster vaccine dose. So far, about 15% of seniors have done so. Overall, about 10.7 million people have received an additional booster dose and more than half were people over 65, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Holcombe, 10/19)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.

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