Doctors taking care of a COVID-19 patient in critical condition being treated at the National Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Hà Nội. — VNA/VNS Photo Hồng Hà
HÀ NỘI — The Vietnamese health ministry confirmed that they would soon issue interim guidelines on the use of plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients as a possible treatment for the disease.
The National Institute of Haematology and Blood Transfusion and the National Hospital of Tropical Diseases are in charge of developing the guidelines on receiving, storing and transporting the convalescent plasma. Việt Nam's decision to explore this pathway in dealing with the disease was prompted by international studies and reports which suggest that blood plasma containing COVID-19 antibodies drawn from recovered patients may help fight off the novel strain of the coronavirus.
Lương Ngọc Khuê, Head of the Department of Medical Examination and Treatment under the Ministry of Health, said that the treatment for COVID-19 remains a challenge given that no decidedly effective cure has been discovered while a vaccine is still in the early phases of development.
The department and the health ministry have been keeping up with the latest information and drawing inspiration from studies and clinical trials that other countries are conducting, including the experimental use of anti-HIV/AIDS drugs, the malaria drug chloroquine, and lately, the use of plasma from convalescent patients to treat the lung disease caused by the novel strain of coronavirus.
So far, Việt Nam has managed to treat 222 confirmed cases out of the nation’s total of 270 patients, with about five per cent being seriously ill, but no deaths so far.
Khuê said that experts are considering the use of plasma therapy as a new potential treatment for critical cases.
The important thing in the under-development guidelines is to select the right people with the right kind of plasma to use, the health official continued.
In addition, to develop a safe donating procedure would also be a priority, to make sure that the donors themselves, the health workers and the community are protected from risks of SARS-CoV-2 infection or other sickness factors.
The examination and treatment department has tasked four leading public hospitals in the country – the National Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Hà Nội, Huế Central Hospital, Chợ Rẫy Hospital and the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in HCM City – with taking care of acute COVID-19 cases.
For the time being, plasma extraction or injection procedures can only be conducted at facilities with “many top of the field experts” such as the National Institute of Haematology and Blood Transfusion in Hà Nội, Chợ Rẫy Hospital and HCM City Haematology and Blood Transfusion Hospital, according to Khuê.
These facilities must coordinate closely with the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology and Pasteur institutes to ensure the collection of plasma is conducted in accordance with professional procedures that the right antibody concentration level is obtained.
The hospitals must also have policies in place to encourage or compensate the donors.
Despite being interim guidelines at the moment, they are still based on scientifically sound evidence to ensure safety for all involved and will be continuously revised and updated, according to Khuê. — VNS