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March 31, 2020 1:16 pm

Israel Said to Be Making Progress Toward Coronavirus Vaccine, as Medical Workers Concentrate on Blood Plasma Therapy

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

An Israeli police officer helps a Health Ministry inspector put on protective gear before they go up to the apartment of a person in self-quarantine as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus, in Hadera, Israel, March 16, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Ronen Zvulun.

Israel is making significant progress toward developing a vaccine for the coronavirus, the N12 news site reported on Tuesday.

Earlier that day, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with the director-general of the Israel Institute for Biological Research, Professor Shmuel Shapiro, and was updated on current efforts to develop a coronavirus vaccine.

Shapiro stated that pre-vaccination planning was well underway, and a model had been developed for experimenting potential vaccines on animals.

Further stages of research would involve actually testing the formulas on animals and then moving to human trials. Not all experiments that work on animals would succeed in human trials.

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In the absence of a vaccine, Israeli medical workers are looking for stop-gap measures. On Tuesday, Israel’s emergency service Magen David Adom (MDA) announced it was starting an effort to collect blood plasma from those who have recovered from the coronavirus, believing the antibodies found in the blood may help fight the disease.

Professor Eilat Shinar, the director of the MDA Blood Services Division, explained, “In biological systems, when we are exposed to viruses or bacteria, our immune system responds by producing proteins called antibodies. These proteins are found in the plasma of each of us after exposure to the coronavirus.”

“We want to take those who have recovered from corona and assessed as healthy,” she said, “and ask them to come to MDA’s Blood Services 14 days after they heal, and donate the plasma fluid in which these antibodies are concentrated to us.”

She said of the procedure, “The donor is connected to a machine that will only extract plasma without the other blood components, which we collect. The advantage is that you can take a much larger volume — almost half a liter of plasma.”

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