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Hospital demand for convalescent plasma growing as COVID-19 cases are on the rise

Jaymi Butler

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Convalescent plasma
Transfusing plasma from a person who has recovered from COVID-19 into patients still fighting the virus can boost their immune system and potentially help them recover.

Pinellas County recorded its second highest daily increase of confirmed cases of COVID-19 Monday, and the higher numbers are causing demand for convalescent plasma to skyrocket.

“OneBlood is experiencing more than a 500 percent increase in hospital orders for COVID-19 convalescent plasma,” said Susan Forbes, Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications and Public Relations for OneBlood.We are urging people who have recovered from the coronavirus to step forward and donate their plasma. They are urgently needed.”

Those who’ve recovered from COVID-19 have antibodies to the virus that remain in the plasma portion of their blood. By transfusing plasma from a person who has recovered from COVID-19 into a patient still fighting the virus, it can boost their immune system and potentially help them recover.

“More than a thousand units of convalescent plasma are being transfused each day throughout the nation,” said Peter Marks, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. “We’re very concerned that convalescent plasma is going to become in short supply if we don’t have more people come out and donate.”

Dr. Paul Lewis, medical director for evidence-based medicine at BayCare Health System, cited a recent study showing safety in transfusing this plasma, along with promising results in some patients who are severely. Further, large trials are needed to fully understand the benefits of convalescent plasma, he said. Right now, however, his main concern is that the demand is greater than the supply in Florida’s hospitals.

“We encourage patients who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 to consider donating their plasma,” Lewis said. “Their donation could help save a life.”

Directed donations to an individual are available. One donation can treat up to three people

Speaking to the Catalyst, Forbes said a number of people in the Tampa Bay area have donated plasma, and she encourages them to do it as often as they’re able. Plasma can be donated every 28 days. 

“There’s no end in sight for the coronavirus. We’re filling orders constantly – it’s like a revolving door,” she said. “We have to have a ready supply, and these donors are the potential key to helping people recover.”

Forbes also noted that the high number of cases is adding to the potential donor pool and said that many of those being diagnosed now will recover and will possibly go on to meet the eligibility requirements to become donors. Those who are treated with convalescent plasma and recover are eligible to donate after three months. 

“This is a way for people who have gone through this to be able to help other people,” she said. “It’s another way for them to give back.”

People who have recovered from the coronavirus can visit www.oneblood.org to see if they meet the eligibility requirements to be a convalescent plasma donor. In addition to meeting all FDA donor eligibility to be a blood donor, convalescent plasma donors must have complete resolution of symptoms at least 14 days prior to donation and provide either a prior diagnosis of COVID-19 documented by a laboratory test or from a hospital, or a positive serological test for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies.

OneBlood is also testing all blood donations for the COVID-19 antibody. The antibody test will indicate if the donor’s immune system has produced antibodies to the virus, regardless of whether they ever showed symptoms. Donors who test positive for the antibody will be eligible to become COVID-19 convalescent plasma donors.

Just under 600 new infections were reported in Pinellas County Monday, just a day after the state shattered records with more than 15,000 new cases. It was the highest number of new infections in a single day by any state since the pandemic began. Seven more deaths were also recorded in Pinellas County, bringing the number of fatalities to 236.

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