South Koreas Shincheonji church joins search for Covid-19 cure
More than 1000 members of South Korea’s Shincheonji Church of Jesus have donated blood plasma in support of efforts top find a cure to the debilitating flu that has infected nearly 30 million people and killed some 800,000 globally.
The donations took place over nine days between August 27 and September 4 in Daegu. The church was responding to a call by health authorities in South Korea which asked members for additional donations of plasma to support the development of a vaccine.
“Facing the need for facilitation of developing a cure through plasma donation and clinical trials, the KCDC asked for another round of a large-scale donation by members of Shincheonji Church on August 24th.
“With the cooperation of Daegu city, Daegu Athletics Center provided the space, while GC Pharma provided the necessary equipment and personnel from August 27 to September 4. We wish to express our gratitude to the people who participated in donating plasma willingly to save other patients after recovery. We specifically express our gratitude to the congregation members of Shincheonji, Daegu city for providing a location, and Korean Red Cross,” said Mr. Kwon Jun-wook, Deputy Director of the KCDC in a statement.
Researches are experimenting with blood plasma as a possible cure for Covid-19. The plasma is extracted from the blood of individuals with a previous exposure to the virus.
With more than 300,000 members globally, Shincheonji Church of Jesus is one of the organisations in Korea that have been at the forefront of fighting the pandemic.
Around 4,000 members of Shincheonji Church tested positive for corona with the infections concentrated in the city of Daegu. While most of them recovered, 11 died.
According to a report from the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) and Shincheonji Church, 562 members who recovered from the virus registered to donate plasma while 628 members had made donations by August 26. It is expected that 1700 members of the church would have donated plasma by the time the exercise is closed later this month.
Research and development of the convalescent plasma treatment is underway by National Institute of Health under the Ministry of Health and Welfare in cooperation with Green Cross (GC) Pharma, a South Korean biotechnology company.
While experts say that more data needs to be collected to see the benefits of such treatment, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the emergency use of convalescent plasma for the treatment of COVID-19.
A major challenge in the research into the effectiveness and the development of convalescent plasma treatment come from the limited supply of donors who must have been exposed and recovered from the virus.
Lee, Man Hee the Chairman of the Shincheonji congregation has encouraged members to make donations.
“Let us lead the effort in plasma donation so that the blood (plasma) of the congregation members can be used to overcome COVID-19 for the country,” he said in his letter to members on August 25.