A roster of celebrities including Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson endorsed it. A corporate coalition led by Microsoft rallied tens of thousands of recovered coronavirus patients to donate their blood plasma, rich in antibodies, to help treat others. Federal taxpayers bankrolled the initiative with at least $340 million.

But when President Trump politicized and overhyped his administration’s authorization last month of convalescent plasma to treat covid-19, he spawned confusion about the treatment and triggered a political backlash that specialists say has stifled an expected spike in demand.

Now leaders of the effort to expand use of convalescent plasma are scrambling to reassure the public that the treatment does have merit, while fending off unfavorable comparisons to Trump’s previous pet coronavirus treatment, hydroxychloroquine. Under similar pressure from Trump, the Food and Drug Administration authorized emergency use of hydroxychloroquine early in the pandemic only to withdraw the order in June when rigorous clinical trials proved the drug was ineffective.

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