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LLS Statement on the Death of Former Secretary of State Colin Powell

Rye Brook, N.Y., October 18, 2021 LLS mourns the passing of Colin Powell. His death is a reminder of the seriousness of the pandemic and the ongoing need to protect the most vulnerable in our society.

While General Powell was fully vaccinated against COVID-19, he had undergone treatment for multiple myeloma, an incurable form of blood cancer. Blood cancer, blood cancer treatments and advancing age can all make people more vulnerable to breakthrough COVID-19 infection, complications and death.

LLS studies have reported that about 1 in 4 blood cancer patients do not generate a full response to the first two-doses of mRNA (Moderna or Pfizer) COVID-19 vaccines. While LLS research has also reported that most blood cancer patients benefit from a booster vaccine, some will still not mount a full antibody response even with this additional dose.

“Colin Powell’s death due to complications of COVID-19 is a real-life example of the elevated risk blood cancer patients face,” said Dr. Gwen Nichols, Chief Medical Officer of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. “I urge all blood cancer patients and survivors to get vaccinated—including with a third dose, unless told otherwise by their doctor.”

General Powell’s death is also a stark reminder of the importance of vaccination for the broader population. By getting vaccinated, those with normal immunity can reduce the risk that they transmit COVID-19 to those whose immunity is impaired.