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Immunocompromised patients may qualify for fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose

Published: Oct. 19, 2021 at 2:02 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - After the COVID-related death of former Secretary of State Colin Powell despite his vaccination status, some are wondering how to best protect the most vulnerable in our community.

Being fully vaccinated is supposed to give you the best chance to survive a bout of COVID-19, but that wasn’t the case for Powell who succumbed to the virus due to his weakened immune system and multiple myeloma diagnosis.

“Because it is a blood cancer, it affects blood cells,” said Dr. Charles Bregier with Novant Health. “It affects white blood cells, both the T-cells and the B-cells, which are responsible for the immunity we get from vaccines as well as natural immunity.”

Novant Health says three to four percent of Americans have weakened immune systems, putting millions of people at a much higher risk of dying from COVID-19.

Powell was scheduled to get a third dose of the vaccine to hopefully boost the antibodies in his system but was diagnosed with COVID-19 before he could roll up his sleeve.

“It certainly is possible, very possible, that if Colin Powell had received the third dose of the vaccine, that third dose may have triggered enough of an antibody response so he would have been in a better place and better able to fight off the COVID infection,” said Bregier.

It’s a reminder of how important vaccinations are to protect the most vulnerable in our communities.

“We want everyone to individually be protected from COVID, but we also understand it’s really important from a community perspective to take care of the most vulnerable in our community.”

In some cases, doctors might even recommend a fourth dose.

“There is some guidance out there that says for significantly immunocompromised people — if they don’t have an adequate response to the third dose — they should talk with their healthcare provider about considering a fourth dose,” said Bregier. “I don’t think that this information has been widely disseminated, but there has been some guidance issued.”

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