Maximizing the networking and communal senses of the Orthodox Jewish community, Kew Gardens Hills native Mordy Serle spoke at a virtual meeting with members of the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills last week about monoclonal antibody treatment as a method of reducing the effects of the coronavirus. He is the son of Queens Jewish Link co-publisher Yaakov Serle.
“They thought that it would be a science experiment, but it grew to 500,000 people,” he said of the COVID Plasma Initiative, a grassroots effort in the Orthodox community where thousands of people who tested positive donated their plasma and tested for antibodies. The plasma was then donated to other patients in need. “The frum Jews saved 100,000 lives.”
A practicing estate planning attorney, Serle became involved in plasma drives early last year when his father-in-law was hospitalized with the virus. Serle teamed up with Dr. Shmuel Shoham, an expert on infectious diseases in transplant patients at Johns Hopkins University, and Chaim Lebovits of Monsey, to encourage plasma donations among Orthodox Jews, who have been hit hard by the virus at the onset of the pandemic. “No other community has the networking, the saturation, to make it possible. It is another thing to be proud of in our community,” said Serle.
The initiative’s effort was praised by then-President Donald Trump and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical advisor. As with many things that Trump endorsed, Serle noted that the initiative became a “political issue,” where Republican states such as Texas and Florida expressed more support for it than New York. “Our organization then pivoted towards the monoclonals.”
A lab-made version of convalescent plasma, monoclonals can be administered intravenously or by injection. The drug is manufactured by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and was notably used to treat Trump when he tested positive for COVID-19 last year.
“It cuts down the days of symptoms and severity. It can be taken preventively. The rest of the country is catching up to monoclonal treatment,” Serle said.
Earlier this month, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced a rapid response unit to administer monoclonal antibody treatments to infected patients. “This is the most effective treatment that we’ve yet encountered for people who are infected with COVID-19,” he said at a press conference. “This, applied early and properly, has the ability to reduce your likelihood of being hospitalized.”
Last week, neighboring Alabama also requested monoclonal treatments for its infected patients, while cautioning the public that they are not a substitute for vaccines.
In the meantime, Orthodox Jews who survived COVID continue to donate their plasma cells to people in need through the COVID Plasma Initiative. “There are Satmar chasidim donating blood to a hospital in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania,” said Serle. “There was Jewish blood pumping through American veins throughout the country.”
Anyone with symptoms of COVID who is interested in receiving monoclonal antibody treatment can contact the Covid Plasma Initiative by calling 828-4-PLASMA or visiting www.covidplasmasavealife.com.
By Sergey Kadinsky