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Experts say age, underlying conditions biggest factors in breakthrough COVID-19 deaths like Colin Powell's

Colin Powell
Posted at 5:51 PM, Oct 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-18 20:06:47-04

CLEVELAND — Former Secretary of State Colin Powell died Monday from complications of COVID-19, his family said in a statement.

Powell was fully vaccinated against COVID-19, prompting questions from the public about the efficacy of the vaccine. But, the CDC states that vaccines are not 100% effective at preventing infections, especially for those at high risk.

Local doctors said the data affirms this.

“It's not just the vaccine alone. The vaccine is effective, but there are other risk factors that have always been shown to increase the risk of severe illness and increase risk of death,” said Dr. Tosin Goje, an infectious disease specialist at the Cleveland Clinic.

CNN and CNBC report that Powell was immunocompromised, reportedly suffering from multiple myeloma, a cancer of plasma cells. His age also puts him at high risk for a severe infection—he died at age 84.

“When you look at age, age is a risk factor, and that is why having a booster shot also has to do with age. More than 81% of COVID-19 deaths have occurred in people who are 65 years and above,” Goje said.

Breakthrough deaths ODH

Overall, the increase in deaths has been in the unvaccinated. According to the latest data from the Ohio Department of Health, there have been 9,125 COVID-19 deaths among people who were not fully vaccinated as of Jan. 1. That’s compared to 205 COVID-19 deaths among people who are fully vaccinated in the same time frame.

Doctors said the best way to avoid this is to get your coronavirus vaccination, request a booster shot if eligible and take special care of those around you.

“Some of our family members older than 80 or 84, they have multiple underlying conditions. They might have chronic medical conditions. We, the healthy, have to protect them by making sure that they don't come in contact with COVID-19,” Goje said.

This can be through social distancing, mask wearing and extra hand-washing, she said.

“It's almost like it takes a village."

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