Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Monday had made a public appeal, calling for plasma donation by people who have recovered from Covid-19. The plea comes in the backdrop of hesitancy amongst recovered patients in donating plasma, with only 66 of the 93,154 recovered patients in the state coming forward for donation since the CM’s appeal.
In Mumbai, BMC has managed to get only 70 donors. On Thursday, Health Minister Rajesh Tope said each district will have a plasma centre.
While experts said the number of donors is picking pace, more donors are needed and soon. Blood banks in the city said recovered patients refuse to donate because they are scared of returning to the hospital.
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 antibodies developed in a recovered patient helps fight against the virus in critical patients. A recovered patient can donate once in every 15 days up to four months after discharge.
In Mumbai, there are 14 licensed plasma banks. Food and Drug Administration has given licences to 11 of these banks in the last two months. The new banks to get licence, include JJ, Sion, Nair, KEM, PD Hinduja, HN Reliance, Jagjeevan Ram, Breach Candy, Prince Aly Khan and K G Somaiya hospital.
In Nanavati hospital, which was first in Mumbai to procure a plasma licence, head of transfusion medicine Dr Rinku Bhatia said she has called over 250 recovered patients. Only seven have donated plasma. “When I call a donor, I tell them their antibodies can help others fight the disease. I have called patients and told them there are senior citizens on ventilator, we have tried drugs and steroids and now perhaps only plasma therapy can help,” Bhatia said.
Most patients refuse citing fear of returning to a hospital where they spent days recovering from Covid-19. In some cases patients say they have returned to their home town outside Mumbai. “In several cases though the family flatly refuses for donation,” Bhatia said.
In Nair hospital, 54 donors have stepped forward, in KEM hospital six and in Sion hospital 10 patients have donated plasma.
Dr Om Srivastava, infectious disease expert, who is heading plasma therapy trial with BMC, said plasma donation is the need of the hour. “The count of recovered patients is huge but plasma units available in city is less than 100. If used at appropriate time plasma can help critical patients,” he said.
So far BMC has used plasma therapy on 20 Covid-19 patients, of them 19 recovered and one died. Suresh Kakani, additional municipal commissioner, said civic hospitals have been asked to start counselling patients during their treatment. “We have asked hospitals to keep in touch with patients even after discharge to build a bond. Local ward offices have been instructed to do the same. When an officer calls to check their health, a patient develops faith in system,” Kakani said. Those agreeing to donate will be asked to undergo screening at nearby dispensaries for infectious diseases like HIV and Hepatitis. Those testing negative will be asked to visit hospital to donate plasma.
The plasmapheresis process takes 30 minutes. The patient’s blood goes into a machine, which separates plasma and redirects remaining blood back into the donor’s body. Each donor can donate 400-500 ml of plasma, which can help two patients.Dr Mohammed Faisal, in-charge of Project Platina, said they are approaching those Covid-19 patients who had some symptoms. This ensures more antibodies. “We have a list of 600 patients… we have started making calls to them,” he said. People with uncontrolled diabetes, more than two comorbidities and women who underwent abortion are not eligible.
On Wednesday, a 55-year-old man on non invasive ventilator support benefited from plasma in Nagpur after a donor stepped forward. Doctors said the first dose of plasma has improved his condition.
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