Kelly Michelle Koch, 50, flew to Hanoi from Ho Chi Minh City this week to donate her plasma in hopes that she might be able to help save other COVID-19 patients in Vietnam.
Koch is an American citizen who has spent the past several years living in the city.
In March 2020, after returning to Vietnam from a trip to Thailand, she tested positive for the novel coronavirus and was named the country’s 83rd COVID-19 patient.
Koch received treatment at a makeshift hospital for coronavirus patients in the southern metropolis.
Her symptoms were quite mild and, after testing negative for the virus, doctors announced her virus-free on April 4. She chose to stay in Vietnam following her recovery.
Now, in the midst of Vietnam’s new wave of community-based cases, the National Hospital for Tropical Diseases is urging recovered COVID-19 patients to donate their plasma in order to help treat current active cases.
Koch is not only one of the 17 fully recovered COVID-19 patients in Vietnam who have registered for the program, but she is the first foreigner to do so.
She flew from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi on Wednesday to donate her plasma in the hope that it might help those who are currently suffering from the disease.
“Plasma donation is similar to blood donation, so I hope other people won’t be afraid to get involved,” Koch said.
Five recovered Vietnamese COVID-19 patients also donated their plasma at the infirmary on Wednesday morning.
The National Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Hanoi says the donations will first be used to treat patients there before the program is extended to patients in other hospitals.
At a ministry level, the program seeks to determine the efficacy of blood plasma as a prophylaxis against the novel coronavirus.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), patients who have fully recovered from the coronavirus for a minimum of two weeks and have a prior diagnosis documented via a lab test are eligible to donate plasma.
The donated plasma can then be preserved for up to 12 months.
Using plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients to treat active cases has already been documented in China, South Korea, and some European countries.
Vietnam has so far recorded 883 Covid-19 cases, with 421 recoveries and 18 deaths.
A new wave of local infections began on July 25 with the detection of a patient in Da Nang, ending 99 days of no transmission in the community in the Southeast Asian country.
Since then, 421 local infections have been documented, mostly traced to the outbreak epicenter in Da Nang.