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Impact of vaccines analyzed as Colin Powell is remembered

Published: Oct. 18, 2021 at 7:03 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - As the nation learned of Gen. Colin Powell’s death from COVID-19 complications, an unexpected spotlight has shone on vaccine effectiveness.

Dr. Paul Cook, an infectious disease expert with the Brody School of Medicine, says Powell’s death is not a testament to vaccine efficacy, but rather of older age and comorbidities increasing the risk of death in compromised patients.

“He had two things working against him,” said Dr. Cook. “Number one, he was 84 years old, and we know that elderly people don’t respond to the vaccine as well as younger people. Probably more important though is that he had multiple myeloma, which is a form of cancer.”

Cancer attacked Powell’s plasma cells and left his body’s immune system severely compromised.

He was supposed to get his booster vaccine shot last week, but fell too ill to receive it.

Dr. Cook says though General Powell’s death is unfortunate, it was not unexpected.

“Breakthrough cases were not unanticipated at all,” said Dr. Cook. “Any vaccine that we have on the market now is not perfect.”

In comparison to other vaccines in use, like the flu vaccine, Dr. Cook says the COVID-19 vaccine is actually much more effective.

He encourages anyone who has not yet been vaccinated to do so.

This is a sentiment Congressman G.K. Butterfield echoes for his constituents.

“What we see with General Powell is an example of what can happen,” said Butterfield. “So, I encourage all of my constituents to get fully vaccinated and let’s follow the guidelines so it will not happen to us as it happened to General Powell.”

Butterfield knew Powell personally and referred to him as an extraordinary leader.

“General Powell just devoted everything that he had to keeping America safe and keeping America great,” said Butterfield.

The Powell family shared a message of gratitude to the staff of Walter Reed National Medical Center, where General Powell received treatment.

They wrote, “We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American.”

Flags have been ordered to fly at half-staff in General Powell’s honor.

As the nation’s first black secretary of state and a decorated veteran, his legacy is remembered by all.

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