What scientists know about the risk of revolutionary deaths

The death on Monday of former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell from complications from Covid-19 fueled vaccine skeptics and opponents,...


The death on Monday of former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell from complications from Covid-19 fueled vaccine skeptics and opponents, who immediately seized the news that Mr. Powell had been vaccinated to stoke doubts over the effectiveness of vaccines.

But Mr Powell’s immune system had most likely been weakened by multiple myeloma, a cancer of the white blood cells. Illness and treatment can make people more vulnerable to infections.

Her age, 84, may also have increased her risk, the scientists said.

Mr Powell received his second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in February, said Peggy Cifrino, his longtime assistant. He had been scheduled for a booster last week but fell ill before receiving it, she said.

While Mr Powell’s death is a high-profile tragedy, scientists have stressed that it should not undermine confidence in Covid-19 vaccines, which significantly reduce the risk of serious illness and death.

“Nothing is 100 percent effective,” said Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “The advantage of getting vaccinated is to want to know that the benefits clearly and definitively outweigh the risks. And we know that about this vaccine.

Vaccines are very effective, even against the more contagious Delta variant, which is now responsible for almost all infections in the United States. Fully vaccinated people are about 10 times less likely be hospitalized and 11 times less risk of dying of Covid-19, according to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A New York Times Analysis data from 40 states revealed that fully vaccinated people accounted for 0.2 to 6% of deaths from Covid-19.

Of the more than 187 million Americans who have been fully immunized, there were 7,178 deaths, according to the CDC, 85% of those deaths occurred in people 65 years of age or older.

“Unprecedented deaths among vaccinated people are occurring,” said Dr Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. “But there are certain groups that are more at risk. “

Since the start of the pandemic, it has been clear that the elderly are the most likely to develop severe Covid-19. They also have a less robust immune system in general and a weaker immune response to vaccines.

In a recent study, which has yet to be examined by experts, researchers found that residents of Canadian long-term care homes, who had a median age of 88, produced levels of neutralizing antibodies about five to six times weaker after vaccination than staff, who had a median age of 47 years.

“This not only exposes them to being infected with Covid but also to have serious consequences,” said Anne-Claude Gingras, senior researcher at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto and lead author of the study. .

Mr. Powell had also undergone treatment for multiple myeloma, a cancer of plasma cells, which are a type of white blood cell. Plasma cells make antibodies and thus play an essential role in the immune system.

What to know about Covid-19 booster injections

The FDA cleared booster shots for a select group of people who received their second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at least six months before. This group includes: vaccinated people who are 65 years of age or older or living in long-term care facilities; adults who are at high risk for severe Covid-19 due to an underlying medical problem; healthcare workers and others whose jobs put them at risk. People with weakened immune systems are eligible for a third dose of Pfizer or Moderna four weeks after the second injection.

The CDC said the conditions that qualify a person for a booster shot include: hypertension and heart disease; diabetes or obesity; cancer or blood disorders; weakened immune system; chronic lung, kidney or liver disease; dementia and some disabilities. Pregnant women and current and former smokers are also eligible.

The FDA has cleared the boosters for workers whose work puts them at high risk of exposure to potentially infectious people. The CDC says this group includes: emergency medical workers; education workers; food and agricultural workers; manufacturing workers; correctional workers; workers in the US postal service; public transport workers; employees of grocery stores.

It is not recommended. For now, recipients of the Pfizer vaccine are advised to be vaccinated by Pfizer, and recipients of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson must wait until booster doses from these manufacturers are approved.

Yes. The CDC says the Covid vaccine can be given regardless of the timing of other vaccines, and many pharmacy sites allow people to schedule a flu shot along with a booster dose.

The disease and treatment – which can include chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and steroids – can make patients more vulnerable to infections.

“Colin was undergoing treatment for multiple myeloma but seemed to be responding well,” said Kathy Giusti, who founded the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation and met Mr Powell when he spoke at a foundation event, in a press release. “Immunosuppression is a well-known side effect of cancer treatment and a reminder that as patients we are at high risk, especially if we are also over 65.”

Vaccines are also likely to be less effective in people with multiple myeloma.

“Unfortunately, cancer itself suppresses the normal immune system,” said Dr. James Berenson, medical and scientific director of the Institute for Myeloma and Bone Cancer Research in West Hollywood, California.

In a study published in JulyDr. Berenson and colleagues found that only 45 percent of people with active multiple myeloma “developed an adequate response” after receiving Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

People who received the Pfizer vaccine had, on average, lower antibody levels than Moderna recipients, the researchers found. Older patients and those who were not yet in complete remission also had lower antibody levels.

It is not known what type of treatment Mr. Powell received for his multiple myeloma or if he was in complete remission. But even patients in remission can have weakened immune systems, Dr. Berenson said.

“They usually – not in all cases, but usually – maintain a depressed state of the immune system even though they have had a good response to their treatment,” said Dr Berenson.

Eric schmitt and Christine hauser contributed reports.

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