The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has demanded that the state government should make it mandatory for all recovered Covid-19 patients to donate blood for convalescent plasma therapy. Officials from the IMA said on Tuesday, the increased availability of plasma will not only improve the recovery rate of the other Covid patients but also reduce mortalities in Maharashtra.
Only 180 recovered Covid-19 patients have come forward to donate plasma so far. Others are so fearful of getting re-infected that they refuse to donate and then there are those who state they do not want to set foot into a hospital anytime soon.
Convalescent plasma therapy involves extracting plasma from recovered patients 21-28 days after their discharge and injecting it into a critically ill Covid-19 patient. The reasoning is that the antibodies developed in a recovered patient will help the sick ones, especially those critical, fight the virus. A recovered patient can donate once in every 15 days, for up to four months after discharge.
“The therapy was thoroughly tested at various government medical colleges and proved to be a life-saving measure in patients with hypoxia, who needed oxygen and possible admission to the ICU. However, it is not used frequently at various treatment centres in Maharashtra. One of the main reasons cited is the non-availability of plasma donors in sufficient numbers,” said Dr Avinash Bhondwe, president, IMA, Maharashtra.
Dr Bhondwe recommended that hospitals take a mandatory undertaking from all the cured patients to report on the 15th day after their discharge or recovery. Thereafter, they will be tested to see if they are fit candidates for blood donation. The government may make this procedure of blood donation for the plasma collection compulsory under the provisions of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, or a new ordinance. Moreover, we also appeal to the citizens that being compelled to donate plasma should not be seen as an autocratic diktat but as an obligation to humanity and a commitment to save human lives,” Dr Bhondwe added.
Dr Om Srivastava, infectious diseases expert, who is overseeing the plasma therapy trials with the BMC, said plasma donation is the need of the hour. “The count of recovered patients is huge but plasma units available in the city are less than 100. If used at the appropriate time plasma can help critical patients,” he said.
So far, 19 of the 20 patients on whom the BMC has used this therapy have recovered, while one died. Additional Municipal Commissioner Suresh Kakani said civic hospitals had been asked to start counselling patients during their treatment. “We have asked hospitals to keep in touch with patients even after discharge, and build a bond. Local ward offices have been instructed to do the same. When an officer calls to check on their health, a patient develops faith in the system,” Kakani said.
Meanwhile, to curb the blackmarketing of plasmapheresis, the State Blood Transfusion Council (SBTC), issued an order on Monday, asking blood banks to submit details of units of convalescent plasma collected from patients and distributed to hospitals for treating patients since July 1.
The authority has also asked banks to furnish rates charged for processing plasma units. It said since there has been “off-label” use of plasma, details will have to be shared with the state government. Around 14 banks in the city have been given licences to make plasma from the blood of convalescents.