An outpouring of support and condolences are still coming in for the family of former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who passed away due to complications from COVID-19. His death is also shedding a light on the struggles of some people who are immunocompromised during this pandemic.
In a statement on Monday, Powell’s family said he was fully vaccinated. A spokesperson confirmed to ABC News the 84-year-old was being treated for a certain cancer that compromises the immune system and that he was scheduled to soon get his third COVID shot.
“People who are immunocompromised, especially cancer patients, these people are at higher risk of getting the disease,” said Dr. Michael Teng, an associate professor at USF Health.
The CDC says people who are moderately to severely immunocompromised makeup about 3 percent of the adult population and are especially vulnerable to COVID-19, noting they may not build the same level of immunity to a two-dose vaccine series compared to people who are not immunocompromised.
The agency recommends people with moderately to severely compromised immune systems receive an additional dose of mRNA COVID-19 vaccine at least 28 days after a second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.
“You give it again to help the immune system get another jolt and stimulate more antibody production, and in those cases, the majority of people who get that next dose respond, so now you can have antibodies, detectable antibodies that can potentially protect you from getting infected,” said Teng.
Aside from the immunocompromised, boosters are available right now to certain groups of Pfizer vaccine recipients who completed their initial series at least six months ago. Health experts explain getting the vaccine is important to help protect not only the medically vulnerable, but also those who can’t get vaccinated yet like younger children.
“There might be just regular people walking around that are cancer patients, that are cancer survivors, that are immunocompromised, and you wouldn’t know it, so the point is not to think that it’s all about you, it’s about the community, “ said Teng. “It’s about helping other people protect themselves that may not be able to protect themselves.”
On Tuesday, more shots went into arms through Hillsborough County’s effort to make booster shots available to those who need them.
“We’re here at Sun City doing TVA, our Targeted Vaccine Area, and basically we’re just trying to be an approach for the County to assist at-risk populations for getting their first, second, or booster shots,” said Kesley Richardson, a health care coordinator for Hillsborough’s Office of Emergency Management.
As people rolled up their sleeves for a booster, some shared their message to folks who may be holding out on the vaccine.
“I know it’s a personal choice, but I think it’s important for the whole community as a whole, and science has shown that it has worked,” said Frank Saia, who got a Pfizer booster. “It has kept people out of the hospital, so I think it’s important.”