Do not buy ‘passive vaccines’

PETALING JAYA: Recovered Covid-19 patient Reza Huzairi Zainuddin has appealed to the public not to buy blood plasma supposedly belonging to recovered Covid-19 patients which are sold online as “passive vaccines”.

Reza, 41, who is the first convalescent plasma donor in the country, said it was pointless purchasing blood plasma from recovered patients as they were not vaccines that could cure the illness.

“I just think the sellers are being irresponsible and unethical, ” he said.

It was reported that some online criminals are offering blood plasma for almost A$25,000 (RM87,500).

Researchers from Australia National University made the discovery while looking into how cybercriminals were exploiting the virus crisis.

“The word I think is passive vaccination, where the blood plasma of a recovered Covid-19 patient is harvested for the antibodies and that is then used to inject into someone who may be at risk of Covid-19, ” the lead researcher, Rod Broadhurst, was quoted by AM, Australia’s current affairs programme.

Blood plasma from recovered Covid-19 patients was among hundreds of coronavirus-related “products” for sale on the dark web, which the team uncovered earlier this month.

It is understood that each plasma donation typically takes one hour, with whole blood being drawn from the patient.

The plasma is then separated in a machine next to the bed before the blood cells are returned to the person in saline solution.

Blood plasma is also sold openly by biomedical companies in countries like the United States where there is a private market.

The New York Times reported that blood plasma donated by recovered patients were sold at exorbitant rates to laboratories and test manufacturers – from US$350 to US$40,000 (RM1,470 to RM168,000) for a rare sample from a single donor.

Some biomedical companies claimed that the prices were exorbitant due to the supply chain, including finding donors, testing samples, safety costs and shipping logistics.

Blood samples containing antibodies are needed to validate tests being developed by scientists.

In countries like Malaysia, blood donation is normally voluntary as paying for it might seem distasteful or exploitative.

In countries such as the United States, Germany, Austria, and certain provinces of Canada, people are given remuneration for giving blood.

While blood can be typically kept refrigerated and needs to be used within 42 days, plasma can be stored for up to 10 years as long as it is kept frozen.

This makes it relatively easy for plasma to be shipped or transported all over the world.

Reza, who is the senior vice-president (Human Capital) of UDA Group Holdings Bhd, added that during this challenging time, people should be focused on helping one another instead of taking advantage of such a situation.

“It is appalling that some people are trying to make money out of this. This is the first time I’m hearing there are people out there selling it, ” he said.

Reza said he would continue to donate his blood plasma in order to help other Covid-19 patients, especially those who are in a critical stage.

“I pray that the research done by our qualified health experts in the Ministry of Health will prove to be a success, ” he added.

He also hoped more former patients would come forward and offer their blood plasma to help treat thousands of patients.

Chester Chang, 32, Covid-19 case number 18 who became the second contributor of blood plasma, concurred, saying that it was irresponsible for parties to sell their blood plasma.

“If we support selling plasma, it will become a business. The young ones might even purposely infect themselves and find ways to make money from it, ” he said, adding that he had already donated his blood plasma for the third time.

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