Dr. Osagie Ehanire, the Minister of Health, on Sunday said the Federal Government was working on research, using plasma from the blood of recovered Coronavirus (COVID-19) patients to treat people infected with the virus.
He disclosed this while answering questions from journalists in Abuja on the possibility of recovered COVID-19 patients to treat serious cases.
The minister, who spoke at a news conference to commemorate the World Blood Donor Day (WBDD), said some research institutes were already working on the new research.
According to him, plasma of patients recovered from COVID-19 is called Convalescent plasma.
He said: “It is believed that persons who suffered COVID-19 and have recovered will have antibodies inside their plasma, which can be used to treat others. It can be used to treat others who are not able to build antibodies fast enough or those who are suffering from a severe form of the virus. Yes, our research centres are participating in looking at what advantages and benefits can come out of convalescent plasma. I have seen this particular research in Lagos; it is part of what will be studied and the result will be published so research is going on it.’’
Reports have it that the approach was used by Guinea in the Ebola epidemic in 2014, prior to the availability of Ebola vaccines and therapies.
Also, in Mauritius, 150 people who have recovered from COVID-19 have indicated their willingness to give plasma in line with the national decision to use serum plasma therapy for COVID-19 patients in intensive care.
The minister, however, urged Nigerians to donate blood to save lives of those in need, adding that people should shun some myths surrounding blood donation.
Furthermore, he said: “Myths are part of ignorance that education should fight and stakeholders are supposed to enlighten people on this issue, that your blood is something that can save somebody life. The blood is regenerated in your system; your body is stimulated to replace that blood donated so that blood that you donated, very soon, it is filled by your system. It is filled in such a way that a man can donate four times in a year while women can donate up to three times a year, provided they are tested the fit. They can donate provided they are free of any sickness and provided they will not suffer any disadvantage from donating the blood.”
He said that the ministry had been creating awareness on the need to donate, saying “donating blood provides availability of safe blood at hospitals and where they are needed. Nobody knows who will be in need of blood at any time so we have been embarking on a media campaign and awareness creation to increase the number of voluntary donors in the country.’’
According to him, the ministry attached great importance to the celebration of the World Blood Donor Day, globally celebrated on June 14 and has to redesign the activities to mark the day during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
He stated that: “We still have to go ahead and mark the day following the guideline of wearing our facemask and observing physical distancing. Giving blood is like giving life. Blood is life, you are helping someone to save his life; it should be your joy that you are helping when you donate blood.’’
He however, thanked all the voluntary blood donors in the country for their efforts and sacrifice of donating blood.
Also at the event, the highest blood donor in the country, Mr. Nathan John, expressed happiness for the opportunity to donate his blood to assist those in need.
He said: “I have been donating blood for the past 15 years. I donate four times in a year and I have donated 63 units of blood during the period. I am happy doing this, each time I do it, I sleep very well; there is no side effect in my body. In fact, I feel healthier and better.”
Meanwhile, in his remarks, the Director, National Laboratory Manager, National Blood Transfusion Service, Mr Kinsley Odiabara, thanked regular blood donors, especially the youth for donating blood to save lives. He also urged other youth to embrace voluntary blood donation for the country to meet up with the World Health Organisation (WHO) stipulation. He also commended the minister for taking lead in presenting the Bill to establish a National Blood Service Commission to the Federal Executive Council (FEC).
The legislative process of the Bill for the establishment of a National Blood Service Commission is at an advanced stage and awaiting a public hearing at the National Assembly.
WHO stipulates that at least one per cent of the population must be able to donate blood regularly to be able to meet up with the blood needs of a country.
Reported by: Vincent Paul