On April 1, the first patient who recovered from Covid-19 donated plasma at the Magen David Adom (MDA) Blood Services Center at Sheba Medical Center.
“When people are exposed to any disease, they develop antibodies,” explains Prof. Eilat Shinar, Deputy Director-General of Blood Services. “Passive immunization refers to the injection of those preformed antibodies.”
In contrast, active immunization is when you are injected with a weakened or dead form of a virus, which tricks your immune system into responding to the disease by creating new protective antibodies.
In the first phase of the passive vaccine process, donated plasma will be frozen and delivered to hospitals across Israel, enabling transfusion into patients who are seriously ill from coronavirus. The second phase involves collecting enough plasma to prepare immunoglobulin (antibody) concentrate, which will be used for future patient treatments.
According to Prof. Shinar, the Israeli Health Ministry is currently in discussion with two companies equipped to create the immunoglobulin, and it is drafting a protocol for which patients can receive this treatment.
For over 30 years, MDA has been collecting plasma from thousands of volunteers. During the SARS outbreak in 2002, plasma with antibodies was used as a patient treatment. A similar therapy was offered by Israel to patients with West Nile fever.
The FDA has already approved a similar protocol in the US for the passive vaccine for Covid-19. Additionally, five coronavirus patients were treated with plasma in China, and according to an article published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, the treatment “very much helped in their recovery.”
MDA is currently inviting all potential plasma donors to come to its Pheresis Unit at Sheba. In order to be eligible to donate plasma, a patient must wait 14 days from the time results were negative for coronavirus via two separate swab tests.
The 14-day wait period is the reason why the first plasma donation occurred only on April 1. Prof. Shinar reported that there should be an additional batch of donors available after Passover (those who were infected over the Purim holiday). Plasma can be given by a patient as often as twice a month.
Eli Bin, Director-General of MDA, said his organization is at the forefront of the battle against Covid-19 in Israel. With this new passive immunization treatment and others being tested in Israel and globally, “we all hope that together we will overcome this challenge.”
While the Pheresis Unit at MDA’s Blood Service Center at Sheba Medical Center is presently the only collection site for plasma, Shinar said that if there is a sufficient quantity of donors from a particular city, MDA could set up a local collection center there. Donors can also call 03-530-0445 to offer to donate on their own.