Updated: May 26, 2020
Here at the University Blood Initiative, we always recommend donating blood to your local centers. However, if you’ve already donated or are looking for more ways to help, we have another option for you: plasma donation. Now more than ever, convalescent plasma is at the forefront of helping to fight COVID-19. Patients who fully recover develop antibodies in their blood and plasma, which are being used to investigate viable treatments, as none currently exists-- and, eventually, to develop a vaccine, according to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. However, even if you have not contracted the novel coronavirus, you can and should still donate.
What Is Plasma?
As defined by donatingplasma.org, “Plasma is the clear, straw-colored liquid portion of blood that remains after red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and other cellular components are removed. It is the single largest component of human blood, comprising about 55 percent, and contains water, salts, enzymes, antibodies, and other proteins.” It has historically been used in treatment for a litany of diseases, including Ebola and SARS, as a safe means of helping a potentially drug-resistant patient develop antibodies, naturally-occurring proteins used to fight infection. Though the efficacy of plasma treatment for COVID-19 has not yet been entirely proven, it is a promising, crucial path to potential recovery. COVID-19-recovered plasma is the national priority at this time, but plasma can contain any number of antibodies used to fight diseases. Contact your local center to see if they are accepting plasma and if you qualify to donate. If not, donate blood! They will always need it.
How Can You Help?
If you are eligible, donate plasma to your local center. “Community blood centers are at the forefront of delivering convalescent plasma to patients in critical need. This promising investigational product must get to patients without delay, and blood centers across the country have mobilized in response,” said Kate Fry, CEO of America’s Blood Centers, an organization that represents nearly 50 not-for-profit blood centers throughout the United States who collect close to 60 percent of the nation’s blood supply. The experience of donating plasma is not substantially different from standard blood donation: the injection site will be sterilized, and you will be hooked up to an IV to collect plasma, although the procedure may take up to an hour or two to complete. Unlike blood, plasma can be donated twice within a seven-day period. The sooner you act, the more you can donate, and the closer we can get to finding a treatment for COVID-19. It will require time and dedication, but if you’re locked down with nothing else to do, a few hours of your time could help save countless lives.