Colin Powell and COVID-19 Commentary

A nurse fills syringes for patients as they receive their coronavirus booster vaccinations during a Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination clinic in Southfield, Mich., September 29, 2021. (Emily Elconin/Reuters)

Some news websites are hyping the fact that Colin Powell died of COVID-19 even though he was fully vaccinated, and people are jumping on their hobbyhorses. Some are rushing in to shout about the ineffectiveness of the vaccine or the speed of waning immunity. Pro-vaccine voices are jumping in to say that actually it shows that one person’s vaccine isn’t enough, that everyone around a person needs to be vaccinated, and that if more people had taken the vaccine, Powell would still be alive. 

I think both responses, besides being unseemly, are probably wrong. We don’t know how he got it — it could have been from a vaccinated or unvaccinated person — and it’s not all that important. COVID-19 is going endemic. This means that 84-year-old men with Powell’s conditions — he suffered from multiple myeloma, a blood cancer that attacks the immune system — may die from the virus. This happens all the time with endemic diseases that have a mild expression in most healthy adults. Typically in these situations we would point to the cancer, not the cold or flu.

May he rest in peace.

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