Race for a Cure: 4,000 Church Members Donate Plasma for COVID-19 Vaccine

Photo by National Cancer Institute, courtesy of Unsplash

The UK entered a second lockdown on 5 November as coronavirus cases surpassed 1.2 million.

With the sudden surge in infections and an alarming increase in deaths, especially in Europe and the UK, the need for a cure and vaccine is becoming more and more critical. In the last week 160,000 people in the UK have contracted the virus and today alone over 530 people have died (a total not seen since mid-May).
A prospective vaccine has been announced, but not approved. “BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine — developed with the help of US partner Pfizer and China’s Fosun — is on course to become the first approved vaccination in the US and EU for the disease that has killed 1.25m people. Pfizer and BioNTech said they expected to have complete safety data from the trial ready to submit to US and EU regulators by the third week of November.”

Without an approved vaccine readily available, scientists and healthcare professionals are working around the clock in the race to prevent further catastrophic casualties. In some countries, blood plasma treatment yielded great success. The Korean Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) stated, “It is necessary to quickly develop plasma treatment through group plasma donations, in the current absence of an effective treatment in the midst of the continuous occurrence of COVID-19 at home and abroad.”

In fact, on 16 November a plasma donation drive is planned to start in the South Korean city of Daegu with 4,000 members of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus contributing to the fight against COVID-19. This is the church’s third plasma drive for coronavirus research.

The KDCA has made a formal request to members of the Shincheonji Church, thousands of whom were infected and since recovered, to donate their plasma for research. The church’s chairman, Mr Man Hee Lee, stated that it will conduct its third group plasma donation drive starting on 16 November 2020. About 4,000 of Shincheonji members are expected to participate in this plasma drive.

Deputy Director Kwon Joon-wook, from South Korea’s Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters, recently announced that “For the purpose of developing plasma treatment, about 4,000 Shincheonji members plan to participate in plasma donations for three weeks, starting on the 16th. We are grateful for the active participation of Shincheonji, and for the cooperation of the City of Daegu and the Korean Red Cross.”

The church already conducted two group plasma donation drives in July and September this year. A total of 2,030 people participated so far and about 1,700 among them are members of Shincheonji Church of Jesus. Just like the first and second plasma donation drives, the donors have declined to receive travel expense compensation in order to lessen the burden on taxpayers.

A member of the church said, “I was glad and grateful to hear on the news that the plasma treatment is being used at the point-of-care. It’s the most valuable thing we can do (as people who have recovered from COVID-19).” He added, “Through our experience of participating in plasma donation, all the members of our congregation have realised that the power to overcome COVID-19 is tolerance, love and unity. We will put in our utmost effort to overcome COVID-19 through plasma treatment.”

The global community is racing to find a cure to coronavirus. As the urgent need for a vaccine grows day by day, so does the need for a unified vision of the future, and compassion that transcends budgets, languages, and borders.