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Mandatory plasma donation sought for virus survivors

By Ashfaq Yusufzai 2020-05-31
PESHAWAR: The passive immunisation experts have urged the government to make plasma donation compulsory for recovered Covid-19 patients to save the lives of the virus people.

`We will be see a big surge in Covid-19 cases in the next few days, so we will require more plasma to treat patients,` principal investigator of the Passive Immunisation Clinical Trial in Covid-19 Pandemic Pakistan, a federal government initiative, Prof Tahir Shamsi told Dawn.

The haematologist sad 86 per cent of the 70 Covid-19 patients, who were given blood plasma in the country, had recovered.

`On average, we will need 150 plasma donations daily in the next few day but currently, we are facing problems in getting donations. I request Prime Minister Imran Khan to use his large twitter following to scale up awareness of plasma donations tosave lives,` he said.

Prof Shamsi, who is the dean and chairman of the National Institute of Blood Disease and Bone Marrow Transplantation, Karachi, said PM Imran Khan should tweet an appeal for plasma donation.

He said 11 health centres had been recognised for passive immunisation in four provinces but getting plasma donation from recovered patients had turned out to be a dif ficult task.

`A campaign and legislation by the government can help avert a major public health crisis,` he said.

The haematologist said the NIBD sent blood plasma to provinces, which it got from virus survivors at repeated requests.

`We try to talk to 10 recovered patients every day and only one agrees and therefore, the government should own the programme,` he said.

Prof Shamsi said of the 75 plasma donors in Karachi, only three were health professionals, while the rest were the people whom his team persuaded them for donation.

`It is lamentable that our requests to the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan, National Command and Control Centre on Covid-19 and Ministry of Health Services Regulations and Coordination to start a campaign and help our immunisation centres logistically, have fallen ondeaf ears,` he said.

The haematologist said passive immunisation cost Rs30,000 but his programme got it done for free.

`The ventilator changes range from Rs150,000 to Rs200,000 daily and the survival rate is less than 15 per cent. The people cannot afford it. The best option is plasma immunisation, which saves patients from ventilators. We have over 24,000 recovered patients in the country and plasma from one patient can cure two confirmed cases,` he said.

Prof Shamsi said the government should legislate and issue a notification to make plasma donation compulsory for recovered patients, and enforce regulations for it.

`The country has highly trained health professionals, who can ensure the production of extremely promising results,` he said, adding that the government should fulfil its responsibility for plasma donation.

The haematologist said he wrote a letter to prime minister`s special assistant on health Dr Zaf ar Mirza about scarcity of convalescent plasma in the country on May 25 and called for an official announcement from the NCOC for plasma donation by recovered Covid-19 patients to save lives.

He said in light of the rising cases in the Covid-19 designated high dependency units and intensive care units, the NIBD had runout of plasma, while other centres were unable to persuade recovered patients for donation in hospitals, where they`re admitted.

Prof Shamsi said he had named 11 designated hospitals, where the recovered patients could donate plasma.

`The centres are well-equipped but require provision of plasmapheresis kits by the NDMA. We also need more such centres in Punjab and other provinces,` he said.

The haematologist urged the premier`s aide to take interest for the notification of the National Plasma Donation Drive and a national campaign for donors` motivation.

He said the NDMA should consider supporting some centres to get necessary plasmapheresis kits to start plasma collection in the country.

Meanwhile, doctors of the Hayatabad Medical Complex, the sole passive plasma immunisation centre, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa also sought plasma to treat Covid-19 patients.

They said the hospital had so f ar received plasma from 11 Covid-19 survivors and had administered it to 20 people before getting `good results`.

The doctors said the province has 2,750 people, who recovered f rom Covid-19 in hospitals. The hospitals had contacts of all patients but there is no mechanism to convince them to donate plasma.