Health authorities in South Korea have approached Shincheonji Church of Jesus asking for further plasma donations for the development of a vaccine for Covid-19.
Among the challenges in researching the effectiveness of convalescent plasma treatment is the limited supply from donors, who must have fully recovered from the virus. Roughly 4,000 of the church’s members were infected earlier this year, with Daegu being the hardest hit. While most recovered from the virus, the congregation suffered 11 deaths. Shincheonji leader Man Hee Lee, who is an advocate for world peace, personally advised recovered congregants earlier in June to donate their plasma for the general good of humanity. Following that first round of plasma donations by the church members, Chairman Lee recently encouraged the church’s members once again to do all they can to help the search for an effective treatment.
“Let us lead the effort in plasma donation so that the blood (plasma) of the congregation members can be used for overcoming Covid-19 for the citizens and the country,” he said in a letter to the members on August 25.
The Korea Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (KCDC) and Shincheonji expect 1,700 members to have made donations by the end of this week. This second round of donations by the church’s members is in line with the organisation’s goal of helping to contain the virus as South Korea faces a fresh spike in cases. US President Donald Trump said last week the Food and Drug Administration issued authorisation for the emergency use of convalescent plasma for Covid-19 treatment.
Research and development of the convalescent plasma treatment is underway by South Korea’s National Institute of Health under the Ministry of Health and Welfare. The government entities are also working with Green Cross Pharma, a biotechnology company near Seoul.
Deputy Director of the KCDC Kwon Jun-wook has thanked the church for its contribution.
“We express our gratitude to the people who participated in donating plasma willingly to save other patients after recovery,” Kwon said.