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Updated October 22, 2021: The CDC on Thursday approved booster shots of the Moderna and J&J COVID-19 vaccines for those 65 years and over, aged 18 to 64 with health conditions that increase their risk of severe COVID, and people aged 18 to 64 who have frequent exposure to COVID because of where they live or work (the same criteria that were used last month when the Pfizer booster was greenlit), as early as today. The agency also endorsed the so-called mix-and-match strategy, which enables those fully immunized with one company’s vaccine to receive a different vaccine for their booster shot. Visit the IMF COVID-19 page for more information.

October 19, 2021

Tragically, former Secretary of State Colin Powell died of complications from COVID-19 infection Monday. As an 84-year-old with a diagnosis of multiple myeloma plus underlying serious medical conditions, including prior prostate cancer and Parkinson’s disease, Powell was especially immune-compromised and vulnerable, something I discussed in an interview with KTVU Fox 2 News Monday night. While mourning this loss, we must be alert to measures which can avert such outcomes.

Key role of boosters     

Although a booster shot had been planned, this was not accomplished prior to Powell’s hospitalization. This could have really had an impact by raising his COVID-19 antibody levels and immunity. We know that about half of myeloma patients on active treatment have low and inadequate antibody levels. The booster can give that extra protection needed to save lives. 

Fortunately, the Pfizer booster is already FDA-approved. The Moderna and J&J boosters will also be fully approved very soon, meaning that the boosters will be available to all vulnerable and elderly Americans. The New York Times reports that the FDA also may soon authorize COVID booster shots of vaccines different from the ones that people originally received. This “mix and match” approach can improve access, depending upon the local availability of a particular vaccine. 

Bottom line 

The full vaccination plus a booster is key for all myeloma patients. 

Family and friends need to help too 

To protect the vulnerable, it is tremendously helpful if both family and friends are also fully vaccinated. This gives an extra layer of protection for patients to reduce or avoid exposure to the Delta variant and/or other dangerous new COVID-19 variants. In addition, wearing masks is important for indoor activities with any larger group. But these activities are always a risk and should mostly be avoided. 

Takeaways for myeloma patients 

It IS possible to stay safe using common sense approaches that both protect patients and allow them to have as much normality as possible in their lives through these difficult pandemic times. 

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Image of Dr. Brian G.M. DurieDr. Brian G.M. Durie serves as Chairman of the International Myeloma Foundation and serves on its Scientific Advisory Board. Additionally, he is Chairman of the IMF's International Myeloma Working Group, a consortium of nearly 200 myeloma experts from around the world. Dr. Durie also leads the IMF’s Black Swan Research Initiative®.

 

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