Highlight Of Response By The Honourable Minister Of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire On The Occasion Of The World Blood Donor Day, 2020 Marked On Sunday, 14th June, 2020.
Q. We have seen instances where people who donate blood fall sick and in need of blood, what is the Federal Government doing to ensure that blood donors are healthy after donating blood?
Ans. The Honourable Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire said that there are tests and conditions under which blood will be donated. If you are not healthy and above the age of 18 and if you are tested and found that you do not have enough blood in you, there is no good donation will be taken. You will also be screened for some very important transmissible diseases to make sure that, the diseases are not passed through the blood to others, but we'll also alert the donor that yes you have this kind of problem and the treatment will now be something you can organize with the help of those who are taking the blood donation to see that, the illness discovered at the screening is attended to, which you may not have been aware of. But let us make it clear that donation is voluntary, it is not compelled, it is not forced and anyone who donates knows that they are doing it out of their own free will.
Secondly, it is non-remunerated, you are not expecting to be paid for it, once you are being paid for it, and then the purpose is defeated of being voluntary. So, once you understand those connections, you understand that you are giving a donation. It is a service to mankind as your own contribution to the health of your fellow man and woman.
Q. What are the Federal Ministry of Health and the National Blood Transfusion Services doing to address some myths surrounding blood donation in the country. People believe that if they donate blood it could be used for juju or some other things, how can we dispel such myths?
Ans. “Myths of that kind are part of the ignorance that education is suppose to fight, education is supposed to take care of lack of enlightenment; so, again a campaign of this nature, also the campaign by the word of mouth of everybody sitting here, whatever forum we operate is supposed to enlighten people to the fact that your blood is something that can save somebody's life and if you donate blood in the correct and proper way, that blood is regenerated in your system, you will not be short of blood, your blood is stimulated, your body is stimulated to replace that blood within a short time; so, that blood you donated very soon is refilled by your body in such a way that men can safely donate blood up to 4 times a year, women can donate blood up to 3 times a year, provided they are tested fit, provided that they do not suffer any disadvantage for having donated that blood. If they suffer a disadvantage, blood will not be taken from them. The technicians will first of all make sure that all these conditions for safe donations are met before they can take blood.
Q. If a certain disease is found during screening can the disease be removed from the blood to ensure its safety?
Ans. No, if a certain disease is found, that blood cannot be donated, but the person who donated will be alerted to it and helped to arrange treatment. But the very discovery of it, even if the donor was not aware of it, is also a service to the person to realise that there is a problem they were not aware of which they can now take care of, but any blood that has a disease in it or pathogen is regarded as contaminated and not useable for another person.
Q. Of what use can the plasma collected from a patient of COVID-19 who has recovered, be put to?
Q. What is the Federal Ministry of Health doing to help buoy up budgetary provisions for the National Blood Transfusion Service which is known to be lacking enough for its programmes?
Ans. Well there are 3 questions, let me start with the last one, the plasma collected from persons who have suffered from COVID-19, I believe that is what you are referring to, which is called convalescent plasma because it is believed that persons who have suffered from and recovered from COVID-19 will have antibodies inside their plasma which can be used to treat others who are not able to make antibodies fast enough or who might be suffering from very severe forms of the disease. As you know, COVID-19 can arise in some people with almost no signs and in other people with very severe signs. Yes, our research centres are participating in looking at what advantage and benefit can come out of convalescent plasma. I have seen this particular research programme in Lagos and its going to be part of what we publish when it has been studied and when the results are out, so there is research going on.
The other question is about what the Ministry is doing for the NBTS, If you listened very well to my speech, the Ministry has very big plans for the NBTS. The first plan is to have it established and become self organising as a Commission once the bill is out. Now the purpose is to expand its reach to be able to collect more blood and screen more blood and arrange for the testing and arrange for the transportation and have network that allows it to save safe blood delivered in any centre where it is needed, as it happens in developed countries.
In those developed countries today, you just make a phone call and whatever type of blood you require will be sent to you. So that “reach” that is what is called the reach, it is part of what the NBTS will be working towards, not only increasing its volume of collections but the reach of service and this is not an easy thing to do because it requires a lot of organization and then the bigger plan of being able to use the blood collected in a commercial rate because if are not going to transfuse all of it, it is possible to have blood fractionation that can allow to take out different components and put on the market, you can sell the excess and you can also use other parts like develop help for emergencies and so on. These can be very high in demand outside the country, so you can have that population of 200 million, you have a huge potential to be able to collect a good amount that can be fractionated, blood fractionation on a commercial scale, to do that requires good investment and that is why we are working and looking for partners particularly in the private sector who realize the benefits and the potential for that equipment that is required and the investment to go into blood fractionation that will be able to generate so much funds, that blood transfusion will require no more input anywhere because they will be able to be self sustaining in a way that; In fact, that is income-generating. If you are into this business of using blood components to supply the needs of the whole world, not only your country but outside, you will be generating lots of incomes. So that requires a lot of investment as well. Right now, the country itself has so many committing needs that it is at the moment not able to put that capital down for the business; so you need technical partners who are ready for this investment to do that. The potential is there, we have a healthy population, relatively young people, Nigeria has a good population of young, well able bodied people, compared to other countries where the population of older persons is higher; so the potential is right there, we have manpower, we have trained manpower, we have experts, so all we need is just the investment and technology and then we can find our way into the global market for blood products.
Compiled by Blessing Efem.
Olujimi Oyetomi, Director, Information, Media & Public Relations, FMOH.