Plasma therapy yet to take off in the capital for lack of donors

Published : July 09, 2020 18:53 IST

A plasma donor at ILBS Hospital, New Delhi, pm July 2. Photo: Kamal Singh/PTI

Plasma therapy has emerged as a promising intervention to cure Covid-positive patients. It is a treatment where the plasma, a component of the blood, from a recovered patient is injected into an infected person in order to boost his/her immune response. The antibodies present in the plasma of the recovered patient help the infected patient recover. Ironically, even health-care workers who have recovered from the disease and, in the normal course of things should understand the importance of donating plasma and saving lives, are reluctant to do so.

The Delhi government set up its first plasma bank at the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS) in South Delhi’s Vasant Kunj last week to streamline plasma therapy. It is the first of its kind. People can donate plasma after 28 days of being discharged from quarntine centres and testing negative. Even though the demand for the therapy has gone up, the number of willing donors is yet to pick up.

Sujeesh S, head of the nurses’ union in Baba Sahib Ambedkar Hospital (BSAH), said that nearly 200 health-care workers had recovered from COVID-19 at their hospital. But so far, only three of them had donated their plasma. He said that the nurses were motivating the recovered patients to donate their plasma but they were not coming forward to do the same. A major myth surrounding the donation of plasma is that it would cause weakness in the donor and the blood would not be regenerated for a long time. Sujeesh said that they were informing prospective donors that new blood cells get formed in just two or three days.

Amarchand (30), a nursing officer, contracted COVID-19 while on duty at the COVID ward at BSAH. He said that he spent 15 days at the government quarantine centre at Sultanpuri. Nobody had to convince him to donate his plasma, he said. He is encouraging other recovered people also to donate their plasma. “We have formed WhatsApp groups with other nursing officers to create awareness about plasma therapy, to stay connected and to motivate them to donate their plasma,” he added.

Jitender is another nursing officer from BSAH who seemed buoyant and joyful after donating his plasma. He was infected while on duty at the COVID ward. He tested positive towards April-end. He was quarantined for 14 days and on May 13 he tested negative. What inspired him to donate his plasma? Jitender said that he received a call from the CM Relief Fund saying that there was someone in urgent need of plasma.“I felt bad at the way people looked down upon me. I did not require any convincing. I donated my plasma on June 1.”

“I did not feel any weakness after donating my plasma. I am absolutely fit. I jog and I play cricket. It is a myth that recovered patients suffer from weakness after donating their plasma,” he said.

The Delhi government has been putting out huge advertisements about their plasma bank, urging recovered patients to donate plasma, telling them not to be afraid and that such donation does not cause any weakness.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has urged all hospitals treating COVID-19 patients in the city to counsel recovered patients at the time of discharge to donate their plasma.

A lot more needs to be done by the Delhi government to encourage recovered COVID-19 patients to come forward and donate their plasma. Voluntary workers and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) need to join hands to spread awareness about plasma donation.

(Manisha Jain is a freelance journalist.)