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Paying plasma donors is not ‘un-Canadian’ — it’s practical and necessary

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As Canadians, we are inclined to be skeptical whenever we see the word “profit” associated with any aspect of our health care system, so it’s not surprising that the issue of paid plasma donation has sparked a national debate. Many worry that paid donation would threaten the principles underlying our public system. But this needn’t be the case.

Right now, a private company called Canadian Plasma Resources (CPR) operates two clinics in Canada — one in Saskatchewan and one in New Brunswick — where they offer donors up to $50 in gift cards for their plasma. CPR has applied to Health Canada for licenses to open several more clinics.

However, Senator Pamela Wallin has proposed a bill to put a stop to that. If passed, Bill S-252, the Voluntary Blood Donations Act, would mean a federal ban on donor compensation.

Meeting national demand

We do not collect enough plasma in Canada to meet the needs of patients. Canadian Blood Services (CBS) collects both blood and plasma through unpaid donations, and while it collects enough for direct transfusions, it does not amass enough plasma for plasma-derived-medicinal-products (PDMPs), which treat many serious conditions, including immunological disorders.

That’s why Canada imports 80 per cent of the plasma it needs for PDMPs from the United States, where donors are paid. This puts us in a precarious position, since U.S. clinics could decide to sell all their plasma to their other buyers. Plasma self-sufficiency is an important goal, and the only countries that have achieved it rely to some extent on paid donation.

Wallin is concerned that a paid donor system would exploit the vulnerable, including “young people at universities who are always short of cash.” But if students need books, and patients need PDMPs, what’s wrong with a mutually beneficial arrangement? And if payment were truly exploitative, how could we justify buying plasma from paid American donors?

While the tainted blood scandal had many causes, the compensation of Canadian donors wasn’t one of them. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Wallin’s more central defence of her proposed bill is that we shouldn’t introduce a profit-motive into the blood system. She points to the recommendation against paid donation issued by the Krever Report in response to the tainted blood scandal of the 1980s, when 2,000 Canadians contracted HIV and more than 30,000 contacted Hepatitis C from tainted blood transfusions.

The thing is, while the scandal had many causes, the compensation of Canadian donors wasn’t one of them. Canadian donors at the time were unpaid.

When Wallin says that profit has no place in our blood system, she is more closely echoing the Romanow Report, which issued recommendations in 2002 regarding the ongoing sustainability of our public health system, for which it found widespread support across Canada. Vitally, it found a belief that profiting from health care is “un-Canadian” and offends Canadian values.  

Altruism is an important national value that is supposedly jeopardized by paid plasma donation. Payment is thought to incentivize people to do things out of self-interest rather than out of a concern for others, and so leads them, Wallin says, “to do things for the wrong reasons.”

But payment and altruism are not incompatible. Canadian doctors receive a wage for the work they do, and we don’t assume that they care only for themselves rather than for the people they treat. We don’t accuse them of practising medicine “for the wrong reasons,” or of jeopardizing Canadian values when they cash their paycheques.

Distribution based on need

The introduction of profit into the blood system might threaten another Canadian value identified by the Romanow Report, that health care should be distributed based on need, not ability to pay.

CBS collects plasma from donors and sells it to hospitals (or to pharmaceuticals to manufacture the PDMPs used by hospitals) for distribution to those in need. CPR does the same thing. Yes, it pays donors, but this happens on the collection side of things, and so doesn’t affect distribution. And yes, it has a profit-motive. But so do our other medical suppliers, and this doesn’t seem to offend Canadian values because it doesn’t derail the distribution of care on the basis of need.

Wallin says, “Canadian donors are not meant to be a revenue stream for private companies looking to make a profit.” Her concern is that Canadian plasma should serve a more important goal than to line the pockets of private shareholders. And she is absolutely right about this.

The most important reason for paying donors is to increase and secure Canada’s plasma supply. CPR wants to create profit for its shareholders, so it might sell the blood it collects here to a higher bidder abroad. CPR’s profit-motive means it can’t be counted on to increase Canada’s plasma supply and this is a good reason for Health Canada to not license any more of its clinics.

But it isn’t a good reason to support a ban on donor compensation. To increase and secure our plasma supply, compensation could be offered by a non-profit agency instead. Many not-for-profits — including our provincial health insurers — pay their providers. CBS should too.

A non-profit system of donor compensation subject to public oversight would increase Canada’s plasma supply without the risk of it going to the highest bidder. It could also enforce safety measures that can be more difficult to regulate when plasma comes from private clinics.

We shouldn’t allow Canadian donors to become a revenue stream for private companies looking to make a profit. But this doesn’t mean we can’t compensate them. Bill S-252 would foreclose the important option of non-profit donor compensation, and that’s why it should not become law.

This column is part of CBC’s Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read our FAQ.

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Post-vaccine surge? Michigan’s spring coronavirus case spike close to previous year’s autumn high

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(Natural News) The spike in new Wuhan coronavirus infections recorded in Michigan over the spring is similar to a spike seen during the 2020 fall season. According to a Wall Street Journal analysis, the state’s daily coronavirus case count averaged more than 7,000 for almost two weeks – before taking a slight dip to 6,891 on April 20. This echoed similar figures back in November and December 2020, which saw sharp rises in infections for those two months before plunging.

Back in autumn of last year, Michigan averaged more than 7,000 cases per day for a span of 10 days. New infections dropped slightly, then briefly spiked as the December holidays approached. It then fell to the low 1,000s for the succeeding two months – until ascending again in March.

According to University of Michigan internal medicine professor Dr. Vikas Parekh, the sudden increase in new infections could be attributed to several factors. Among the factors he cited was re-openings, which increased people’s interactions and mobility. Parekh said the loosened restrictions contributed to the spread of the highly contagious U.K. B117 variant.

“As the B117 variant spreads nationally, we will likely see other stats [with] their own surges – although I hope none are as bad as Michigan,” the professor remarked. He continued: “The milestone just tells us we are not yet in the clear, especially as we still have large portions of our population who are not vaccinated yet.”

Parekh also expressed optimism over the lower daily caseloads the Great Lakes State reported. He said he believes both cases and hospitalizations have plateaued and will likely decline soon. The professor commented: “[COVID-19] positivity has been declining now for one week, which is usually a leading indicator of case decline.”

Meanwhile, the state cited younger populations and youth sports, such as basketball, wrestling and hockey, to increase new COVID-19 infections. Because of this, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called to suspend youth sports and indoor dining in the state. She also exhorted high schools to conduct remote class sessions for two weeks to curb the spread of the pathogen.

Michigan still experienced the spike in cases despite having one of the highest vaccination rates in the country

During the opening stages of the U.S.’s immunization drive against COVID-19, Michigan boasted of having one of the highest vaccination rates nationwide. A report by Bridge Michigan even noted the initial “frenzy for vaccines” that “far exceeded the state’s limited supply.” But things have appeared to turn around for Michigan, as it now struggles to reach the 70 percent vaccination rate needed for herd immunity.

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Scottish mom’s legs turn into a pair of “giant blisters” after first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine

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(Natural News) Sarah Beuckmann of Glasgow, Scotland, felt a tingling sensation in her legs and noticed a rash flaring up around her ankles a week after getting her first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine on March 18.

She also had flu-like symptoms right after the vaccination.

Beuckmann called her doctor to arrange an appointment the morning she noticed the rash, but by the afternoon her skin was already breaking out into blood-filled blisters. Blisters also appeared on her legs, hands, face, arms and bottom.

“I ended up asking my husband to take me to A&E,” said Beuckmann, referring to “accident and emergency,” the equivalent of an emergency room (ER). “When I got there, my heart rate was sitting at 160bpm, which they were very concerned about. I got put on an ECG machine.”

Doctors determine AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine triggers the rash

Medics carried out tests for HIV, herpes and other skin conditions to work out what triggered the rash, but all results came back negative. Doctors finally determined that the vaccine caused her rare reaction after carrying out two biopsies.

“Once they found that it was a reaction to the vaccine, they put me on steroids and that really seems to be helping my progress,” said Beuckmann. She had been advised by her doctor not to get the second dose of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine because of her reaction.

Beuckmann spent 16 days at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. She was discharged to recover at home. The 34-year-old mother of one is currently wheelchair-bound due to the bandages on her legs and blisters on the soles of her feet. She may need physiotherapy to help strengthen her leg muscles.

“They are starting to heal and they’re looking a lot better than they were but as the blisters started to get worse, they all sort of merged together,” she said. “I didn’t know what was going on.”

With the blisters merging, her legs have looked like a pair of “giant blisters.” Beuckmann admitted that at one point she feared her legs might have to be amputated.

Dermatologist agrees COVID-19 vaccine causes the blisters

Dr. Emma Wedgeworth, a consultant dermatologist and spokeswoman at the British Skin Foundation, agreed that Beuckmann had likely suffered a reaction to the vaccine.

“Vaccines are designed to activate the immune system. Occasionally people will have quite dramatic activation of their immune systems which, as happened in this case, can manifest in their skin” Wedgeworth told MailOnline. “This poor lady had a very severe reaction, which thankfully is extremely rare.”

It is not clear why Beuckmann, who works in retail, was invited for a vaccine. Scotland’s vaccine rollout was focused on people over the age of 50 when she got vaccinated, although vaccines are available to those who are considered at risk from the virus, or live with someone considered vulnerable.

At least 20 million Briton have had AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, which drug regulators say causes a rash in one percent of cases. They say rashes caused by the jab tend to go away within a week.

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Trojan labs? Chinese biotech company offers to build COVID testing labs in six states

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In 2012, BGI acquired Complete Genomics, a DNA sequencing company and equipment maker. The funds for the $117.6 million purchase were raised from Chinese venture capitals. The company has expanded its footprint globally. According to its website, BGI conducts business in more than 100 countries and areas and has 11 offices and labs in the U.S.

People are concerned about China’s access to American DNA data

Some said that with Complete Genomics providing an American base, BGI would have access to more DNA samples from Americans, helping it compile a huge database of genetic information. Some also worried about the protection of the genetic information’s privacy.

According to a 2019 report from the U.S.–China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC), BGI “has formed numerous partnerships with U.S. healthcare providers and research organizations to provide large-scale genetic sequencing to support medical research efforts,”

There are three main reasons why many people in the biotech community and government have expressed concerns about China’s access to American DNA data.

In the “60 Minutes” interview, Evanina discussed the very likely scenario in which Chinese companies would be able to micro-target American individuals and offer customized preventative solutions based on their DNA.

Evanina asked: “Do we want to have another nation systematically eliminate our healthcare services? Are we okay with that as a nation?”

The second concern is that China may use DNA to track and attack American individuals. As the USCC report states: “China could target vulnerabilities in specific individuals brought to light by genomic data or health records. Individuals targeted in such attacks would likely be strategically identified persons, such as diplomats, politicians, high-ranking federal officials or military leadership.”

The third concern is that China may devise bioweapons to target non-Asians. Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, discussed it in his article “What Will China Do With Your DNA?” published by The Epoch Times in March 2019.

He wrote: “We know that the Asian genome is genetically distinct from the Caucasian and African in many ways. … Would it be possible to bioengineer a very virulent version of, say, smallpox, that was easily transmitted, fatal to other races, but to which the Chinese enjoyed a natural immunity? … Given our present ability to manipulate genomes, if such a bio-weapon can be imagined, it can probably – given enough time and resources – be realized.”

An article from Technocracy said: “China’s aggressive collection of American DNA should be doubly alarming because it can only spell one ultimate outcome: biowarfare. That is, genetically engineering viruses or other diseases that will be selectively harmful to U.S. populations.”

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