Better awareness of plasma donation need of the hour

Recovered COVID-19 patients, who have donated plasma, and doctors feel that there has to be more awareness on convalescent plasma therapy to help recovery of COVID-19 patients.

“Assuming there are 200 patients admitted in a COVID ward, 100 will have better chances of recovery with convalescent plasma therapy. But we are only able to provide for 15 to 20 of them,” said Mohammed Hakkim, Emergency Physician at the Kauvery Hospital. Many patients are afraid, due to the stigma caused by the infection, he added.

Dr. Hakkim said that any person who had recovered from COVID-19 and has tested negative for the viral infection after 14 days of treatment followed by 14 days of self-isolation is eligible for donating plasma. Antenatal mothers, persons above the age of 50 and with comorbid conditions, and those who take intravenous insulin for diabetes are not eligible to donate.

“After the 14-day home quarantine period, if a patient is willing to donate, another RT- PCR (Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) test is done to ensure they test negative, following which they can donate,” he said. Only 600 ml of blood is taken to extract plasma.

“The novel coronavirus in the body is an antigen, and the human body will develop antibodies in its fight response against the viral infection. These antibodies, present in the plasma is nature’s vaccine which we can use to fight the infection”, Dr. Hakkim said. A patient can donate once in two weeks for up to two months from the date of discharge.

S. Amanullah, a 72-year-old man suffering from lung cancer was able to recover from the infection after he underwent convalescent plasma therapy. Plasma donations saved his life, he said. “My family found it very difficult to find donors. With the help of the doctors who treated me, I was able to find donors. Now I am COVID-19 free,” he said.

There is an urgent need for awareness, said G. Kathiresan, another donor, who spoke to The Hindu while donating plasma for the third time. “Many are afraid as they are asked to donate blood soon after they recover. They are apprehensive about side-effects or even falling sick again, especially since the process of plasma extraction is different from regular blood donation,” he said.

Another donor, Hari Prem urged the government to promote plasma donation. “There is a lot of stigma surrounding the illness. Even though I have recovered and come home, some run away when they see me on the street. If one recovered person decides to donate plasma and help at least one ailing patient, so many lives can be saved. The government could take testimonials from donors like us assuring that there are no side-effects and help those who are suffering,” he said.

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