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The U.S. government invested $800 million in plasma when the country was desperate for Covid-19 treatments. A year later, the program has fizzled.
Scott Cohen of Plainview, N.Y., nearly died from the effects of Covid-19 and received convalescent plasma as part of his treatment. When he later recovered, he went on to donate his own plasma 11 times.Credit...Desiree Rios for The New York Times
Scott Cohen was on a ventilator struggling for his life with Covid-19 last April when his brothers pleaded with Plainview Hospital on Long Island to infuse him with the blood plasma of a recovered patient.
The experimental treatment was hard to get but was gaining attention at a time when doctors had little else. After an online petition drew 18,000 signatures, the hospital gave Mr. Cohen, a retired Nassau County medic, an infusion of the pale yellow stuff that some called “liquid gold.”
In those terrifying early months of the pandemic, the idea that antibody-rich plasma could save lives took on a life of its own before there was evidence that it worked. The Trump administration, buoyed by proponents at elite medical institutions, seized on plasma as a good-news story at a time when there weren’t many others. It awarded more than $800 million to entities involved in its collection and administration, and put Dr. Anthony S. Fauci’s face on billboards promoting the treatment.
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