Blood and plasma donations are sought
Blood donation organization Vitalant has launched a program which uses the donated plasma of people who have recovered from COVID-19 to treat patients with the disease. The component in the donated blood is known as convalescent plasma which contains antibodies that could give COVID-19 patients aid in fighting the disease.
Trials for a vaccine are in the works, but it could be months before one is approved. There is currently no vaccine for the disease, although the plasma treatment has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as an emergency investigational treatment.
Currently, it is the only antibody treatment available for patients. Vitalant says this investigational treatment could help patients fight off COVID-19 by using the antibodies in the donated plasma. They are hoping recovered patients will sign up to help those currently fighting the disease. According to Dr. Courtney Hopkins, Senior Chief Medical Officer for Vitalant South, “By donating convalescent plasma, a donor potentially may save the lives of several COVID-19 patients.”
According to a press release from Vitalant, the eligibility criteria for convalescent plasma donors are:
· Prior diagnosis of COVID-19, documented by a laboratory test
· Complete resolution of symptoms for at least 14 days
· Meet all other current FDA donor eligibility requirements to donate plasma
Even with these requirements, there may be additional tests or other criteria required. In some instances, those who have recovered from COVID-19 may be able to donate, even if they did not have an initial laboratory test. Those who meet that criteria and want to donate plasma are encouraged to apply through the Vitalant website Vitalant.org/covidfree. For more information, call 866-CV-PLSMA (866-287-5762).
Dr. Jake LaFleur, of Ville Platte, said, “It definitely has good potential to block the infection. Historically, this has been done since the 1800’s for other illnesses such as measles and polio. In China a small case study was conducted on a few patients who were given the plasma 10-22 days into the hospital admission. They all had positive responses. Ideally it would be best to treat earlier, but these patients were given this treatment as a last-ditch effort.” He went on to say Vitalant is most likely collecting the plasma and doing trials and giving last-ditch-effort treatments to patients who are near death where no other treatments are working. Some of these plasma donations will probably be in trials. “I would imagine they’re pushing this because they’re trying to get samples. Although it seems like there’s a lot of positive outcomes, it’s still experimental in nature.”
Cliff Numark, Vitalant's chief of marketing, said, "As this life-transforming program continues to expand, we're putting out a call to those who have recovered from COVID-19 to help patients in need. We encourage those who are eligible to go through the process to make a real difference."
Vitalant will only accept donors who meet all FDA-required donor eligibility criteria and are symptom-free for at least 14 days. Potential donors can only donate if they have applied and have been accepted to the program. Donors cannot walk in for this procedure; they must first fill out the form at Vitalant.org/covidfree to begin the application process. Potential donors will then be contacted by Vitalant.
While plasma donations could be a hopeful treatment in the fight against COVID-19, blood donation centers across the country are asking people to keep donating to help patients who need blood and plasma due to illness or accidents. The American Red Cross announced, “During this uncertain time, we encourage individuals to keep scheduled blood, platelet or AB Elite plasma donation appointments and to make new donation appointments for the weeks ahead to ensure a stable supply throughout this pandemic.” Additionally, they said there is no known end date in the fight against coronavirus, and they need the help of donors and blood drive hosts to maintain a sufficient blood supply for weeks to come. “In times of crisis, the Red Cross is fortunate to witness the best of humanity as people roll up a sleeve to help those in need. We greatly appreciate the generosity of the public to keep hospital shelves stocked during this uncertain time.”