Jewish People Who Have Recovered From COVID Have Donated Half of All the Plasma Used in US Treatments
By McKinley Corbley
Since Hasidic and Jewish Orthodox communities were some of the first to suffer the worst COVID-19 outbreaks, they are now turning their experiences into a nationwide movement that has already saved thousands of lives.
Out of all the COVID-19 treatments that are currently being researched in the US, convalescent plasma therapy has been shown to be particularly promising—especially for severe cases of the virus. The treatment involves drawing blood plasma out of an individual who has recovered from and built up an immunity to COVID-19, testing the blood for the related antibody, and then injecting it into a sick patient so that the antibody can attack the virus for its new host.
When Dr. Michael Joyner first began spearheading the treatment’s research at the Mayo Clinic back in mid-April, one of the biggest hurdles for its progress was obtaining blood plasma from people who had already recovered from the novel coronavirus.
Joyner knew that many Jewish communities in New York City had been hard-hit by the virus prior to the city’s lockdown because of how its large religious families tend to be more closely-knit—so he hosted a conference call with several of the city’s most prominent rabbis and asked them for help.
Just 36 hours later, more than 1,000 vials of plasma from Jewish people who had recovered from the virus were delivered to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. The delivery was not just an astonishing feat of organized community speed, it was also a medical success: more than 60% of the donations tested positive for antibodies proven to be effective in fighting COVID-19.
Since that initial donation, Jewish communities across the country have hosted plasma drives to help save at-risk COVID patients.
“There’s no way we’d be able to treat so many people without them,” Dr. Joyner told NBC News. “They were the straw that serves the drink in a lot of ways.”
Additionally, their donations have been sent to research facilities around the world to help further the treatment’s development for more widespread use.
To date, more than 36,000 American people have been treated with antibody-rich plasma transfusions—and more than half of those blood donations have come from Jewish people.
“Because we were ravaged by COVID so early on, we recognized that we had the opportunity to give back to the scientific community and to our fellow brothers who are suffering,” Dr. Israel Zyskind, a Brooklyn pediatrician and Jewish practitioner, told NBC. “We don’t just care about ourselves, we care about everyone, and we will do what we can.”