By William Casis
Sen. Imee Marcos recently proposed the creation of plasma banks in all public and private hospitals in the country even as COVID-19 survivor Sen. Sonny Angara launched plasmangpagasa.com to connect donors with hospitals.
While an effective vaccine for COVID-19 and its possible mutations remains unavailable, Marcos said the government must prepare for the long haul.
“Not even medical experts can tell the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, how infection will increase and when a vaccine will be found,” Marcos said.
Medical research has shown that the yellowish liquid part of the blood known as plasma, taken from patients who recovered from the previous coronavirus like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), reduced the number of deaths among new patients who were transfused with it.
“There is hope in the use of plasma as a possible treatment for COVID-19, with clinical trials now being conducted by the Philippine General Hospital. The World Health Organization also sanctioned the use of plasma in other pandemics like the Ebola outbreak in Africa,” Marcos said.
The Senator filed Senate Bill 1648, or the Plasma Donation and Collection Act, to start the process of collecting plasma from donors and establishing facilities for this purpose in hospitals nationwide. The law takes effect within a year.
The Marcos Bill tasks the Department of Health to create guidelines on donor eligibility and a chain of custody to keep collected plasma safe from transmissible diseases.
Marcos added that the racket of buying and selling plasma reported in the Central Visayas would be dismantled if an organized and broader system of plasma donation, collection, and safekeeping were established by the government.
Angara noted that through plasmangpagasa.com, the donors can register and select their preferred hospital for the collection of their blood plasma.
To qualify as a donor, an individual must have fully recovered from COVID-19 for at least two weeks. They must be eligible to donate blood, have prior diagnosis of COVID-19 documented by a laboratory test and meet other donor criteria.
Individuals must have complete resolution of symptoms for at least 28 days before they donate, or alternatively have no symptoms for at least 14 days prior to donation and have a negative lab test for active COVID-19 disease.
Angara assured donors that personal information they provide in registering will be kept private and used only by the collecting hospital for the purpose of matching a patient for blood plasma therapy.
At present, plasmangpagasa.com has partnered with the Philippine General Hospital, Lung Center of the Philippines, and the St. Luke’s Medical Center.
To facilitate connecting blood plasma donors with the receiving hospitals and the patients in need of this, the Office of Sen. Angara, in cooperation with the Bacolod City-based web developer Talking Myna, has launched the website plasmangpagasa.com.
While still considered as an “investigational treatment” for COVID-19, blood plasma therapy has been considered by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a valid and safe approach in treating infectious diseases such as H1N1, SARS, MERS-CoV and Ebola.
Dr. Michael Ryan, who heads the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, said that through the transfusion of blood plasma, the patient is given a boost of antibodies to hopefully help them get through the very difficult phase.
Angara, who tested positive for COVID-19 last March 26, was able to successfully recover from the disease and donated his blood plasma on April 13.
Recently, he again donated blood plasma as a way to give back to medical community who helped him recover from COVID-19.