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WHO advises against use of survivors' plasma to treat COVID-19

The guidance against the use of convalescent plasma, a component of blood that is rich in antibodies, was published in the British Medical Journal based on results from 16 trials involving more than 16,000 patients with varying degrees of coronavirus infection, WHO said.

December 07, 2021 / 07:34 PM IST
Representative image

Representative image

Experts at the World Health Organization (WHO) on December 7 recommended against using blood plasma from people who have recovered from COVID-19 as a treatment for patients with the illness, saying evidence has not shown the costly, time-consuming transfusions to be effective in preventing severe illness or death.

The guidance against the use of convalescent plasma, a component of blood that is rich in antibodies, was published in the British Medical Journal based on results from 16 trials involving more than 16,000 patients with varying degrees of coronavirus infection, WHO said.

Despite its initial promise, current evidence shows that it does not improve survival nor reduce the need for mechanical ventilation, and it is costly and time-consuming to administer, the UN health agency said in announcing the recommendation of an international group of experts on guideline development.

As such, the WHO makes a strong recommendation against the use of convalescent plasma in patients with non-severe illness, and a recommendation against its use in patients with severe and critical illness, except in the context of a randomised controlled trial, WHO said.

The group of experts said in an 81-page study that there was no clear benefit for critical outcomes" such as the need for mechanical ventilation – breathing machines – or deaths of COVID-19 patients.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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WHO previously weighed in on other COVID-19 treatments, such as recommending some steroids for patients with severe or critical cases, and advising against the use of the anti-parasite medication ivermectin and the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine.

 
Associated Press

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