We are very sorry to hear of the passing of General Colin Powell from COVID-19.


While his death is being highlighted by some as an example of vaccine failure, in fact it underscores why vaccines are so important to protect others and not just oneself.

General Powell, who was 84 years old, suffered from multiple myeloma. Multiple myeloma is a cancer that forms in certain white blood cells. These cancerous cells accumulate in the bone marrow and crowd out healthy blood cells, making it is harder for these cells to create antibodies.

We know that many immunocompromised people are not responding as well to the vaccines. In one study, only 45% of multiple myeloma patients developed an adequate response to two doses of the mRNA vaccine, while 22% had a partial response, and 33% had no response. Boosters can help this group somewhat but not completely.

When a population reaches high levels of immunity through vaccination, immunosuppressed people are safer and less likely to be exposed to the virus. Preventing transmission through ventilation, masks, and testing also helps protect this group.

This is the conundrum of public health in societies that highly value individual choice. In public health, and especially with infectious disease, one’s individual choice has important consequences for others.

We are *so* grateful to live in societies that value freedom but accept that these freedoms come with responsibilities. Protecting our most vulnerable citizens is one of those responsibilities.

Many, many families are in the situation of Colin Powell’s with loved ones still vulnerable to severe COVID despite their own vaccination. Let’s all do our part to protect them, as we would surely want others to do for our own family members.

Those Nerdy Girls


CNN: Why Colin Powell’s cancer likely reduced his protection from the Covid-19 vaccine

What is multiple myeloma?

“Response to mRNA vaccination for COVID-19 among patients with multiple myeloma”

Previous DP post on immunosuppression and vaccines

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