COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Even with a vaccine, certain Ohioans face a much higher risk of getting COVID-19. Some doctors say it’s why it’s important for everyone to do their part in stopping the spread of the virus.

This week, the family of four-star general Colin Powell announced he died from COVID-19 complications. The former Secretary of State was fully vaccinated, but he also suffered from several underlying conditions, including blood cancer.

“Elderly age, having cancer, having gone or [currently] undergoing chemotherapy they all put you at high risk for infections,” said Dr. Srinivas Devarakonda, a hematologist at Ohio State.

He explained many cancer treatments, as well as the disease itself, suppress a person’s immune system. He added, many cancer patients also suffer from malnourishment because of nausea and lack of appetite associated with treatments, which also makes it more difficult for the body to fight off other illnesses.

Prior to the pandemic, doctors recommended cancer patients take extra precautions to avoid other infections. Now with the contagious virus spreading, the measures are especially important.

Dr. Devarakonda said early research shows cancer patients register a lower immune response with the COVID-19 vaccine. Those with blood cancers appear to produce fewer antibodies than other types of cancers.

“They all have a very weak immune system,” he said. “So they might not be as well protected, even after being fully vaccinated.”

Cancer patients are among those who may benefit from COVID-19 booster shots, which were recently authorized by federal regulators for all versions of the vaccine.

“It gives some extra protection,” Dr. Devarakonda said.

The doctor explained it’s also critical for caregivers and those who regularly come into contact with cancer patients or immunocompromised individuals to take their own precautions.

“You could put them at very high risk for infection…if you’re sick or if you are not vaccinated or if you’re not following the proper precautions,” he said.

He implores everyone to take similar measures for the same reason.

“It’s a social responsibility,” he said. “By us following these precautions, we can actually help them, we can save lives.”

Researchers from the James at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center are currently studying the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine in cancer patients and survivors. Read more about the study by clicking on this link.