Colin Powell's death highlights urgency of vaccination, experts say

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who died on Monday of COVID-19 complications, was fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. Powell, 84, had battled multiple myeloma, a blood cancer that weakens the body's immune system.

"Anytime someone very prominent comes into the news like this, it can be concerning because there's a lot of attention around one case," Dr. Purvi Parikh of NYU Langone Health said, "We're like, 'OK, how is this going to get blown out of proportion.'"

Parikh echoed the concerns of many of her colleagues in the medical community. Anti-vaxxers are, once again, questioning the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines now that Powell died from the virus. She noted that more than 6 billion doses of the coronavirus vaccine have been administered worldwide.

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"We have so much more data, again, confirming the safety and efficacy of the vaccine," she said. 

Parikh said everyone should be more afraid of the virus than the vaccine.

Colin Powell's age, cancer left him vulnerable to COVID-19 despite vaccination

Health professionals across the country are battling what they call misinformation about COVID-19 breakthrough cases. They have always conceded that no vaccine is 100% effective. However, vaccines are your best chance at surviving the virus.

Closeup profile of Colin Powell

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell at a ceremony in Tocqueville, France, Nov. 30, 2006. (AP File Photo)

"When you look at the data, what you see is that overwhelmingly the deaths that occur with COVID are in unvaccinated people — overwhelmingly," said Dr. Mitchell Katz, the president and CEO of NYC Health and Hospitals.

Powell had a severely compromised immune system, which is a major reason why everyone should be vaccinated to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, health experts say.

CDC: Unvaccinated 11 times more likely to die of COVID-19

"It helps protect not just them but also those who are more vulnerable," Dr. Dave Chokshi, New York City's health commissioner, said.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy spotlighted data showing that breakthrough cases are rare. Since January, more than 5.6 million New Jersey residents have been fully vaccinated. The total number of breakthrough cases: about 36,000.

"The reality is that the vaccinations are highly protective," Murphy said.

Older adults are more susceptible to severe breakthrough COVID-19