His death, medical experts say, underscores the need for COVID-19 vaccine booster shots among older adults and high-risk populations to shore up protection.
Powell was afflicted with other diseases, including Parkinson’s and the blood cancer multiple myeloma, which could hamper recovery from COVID-19 infection, according to reports. His family didn't specify when Powell received vaccine, or whether he had taken a booster shot.
Also, studies have shown that certain patients with weak immune systems don’t always elicit substantial levels of COVID-19 vaccine-induced antibodies, and regulators in August authorized a third dose of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for certain vulnerable patients, like solid organ transplant recipients, patients taking treatment for blood cancers or tumors, among other patients with conditions considered to have a similar level of immunocompromise, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
"The vaccines that we have, and he [Powell] evidently was fully vaccinated, are extraordinarily good against preventing death, hospitalization and severe disease but they are not perfect," Dr. Greg Poland, infectious diseases expert at the Mayo Clinic, told Fox News, adding that depending on patients’ age, gender and underlying medical conditions, up to 5% will not be fully protected.
"That is the very reason that we are engaging now in a national dialogue about booster doses," Poland said. Regulators last month authorized a booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for adults ages 65 and older, and people ages 18-64 at high risk of exposure and severe COVID-19 disease.
A Food and Drug Administration advisory committee endorsed a similar authorization for Moderna’s half-dose booster shot, and also recommended a second shot for all adults ages 18 and older who received the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least two months ago.
"The shot works. This is not evidence that the shot doesn’t work," said Dr. Marc Siegel, Fox News medical contributor and professor of medicine at NYU Langone Health. "This is an outlier but it’s a wake-up call for boosters."
Several medical experts, including Dr. Aaron Glatt, chair of the department of medicine at Mount Sinai South Nassau, told Fox News that older adults and high-risk populations should receive booster vaccines to increase their protection.
"If any good could come out of this, it’s a warning to all that booster doses have their place, particularly in the more elderly, or frail or people with underlying medical conditions," Poland said. "As soon as they can get their booster, they should."
Fox News' Brooke Singman contributed to this report.