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Had COVID? Donate convalescent plasma to help others

Convalescent plasma

Have you recovered from COVID-19? If “yes,” consider donating convalescent plasma to help others who are seriously ill with the virus.

Have you recovered from COVID-19?

If “yes,” consider donating convalescent plasma to help others who are seriously ill with the virus.

According to Medical Director Dr. Kathy Puca, Transfusion Services Department, Marshfield Labs, a division of Marshfield Clinic, COVID-19 convalescent plasma (CCP) is an Emergency Use Authorized product by the Food and Drug Administration since there’s no approved treatment options for COVID yet.

“Giving CCP may not prevent the illness from becoming more severe in all patients, but it is safe and might lessen the course for some patients,” Puca said. “The jury is still out about whether CCP is a significant help. Where it might help is if the plasma has a high enough level of antibodies to COVID and is given early in the illness, soon after a patient is admitted to the hospital.”

So, there is a growing need for donors.

“Donors are always needed since blood products for trauma and heart surgery patients and cancer patients on chemotherapy rely on volunteer donors,” Puca said. “But, only about 4% of people eligible to donate blood do.

“With regards to CCP, time is of the essence to donate, too, since an individual can only donate within six months after recovering from COVID infection. This time period is to make sure donated plasma contains high enough levels of antibodies to COVID. In some individuals, antibody levels can decline over time.”

Plasma is the liquid part of your blood. About 90% of plasma is water, but also contains nutrients, proteins, clotting factors and antibodies formed in response to fighting infections and viruses.

Convalescent plasma is plasma donated by people who’ve recovered from an infectious disease, like COVID. It contains antibodies – proteins your immune system makes after you’ve had an infection – to help fight a virus. These proteins can neutralize or kill the virus and help severely ill patients with recovery.

Donating CCP is much like donating whole blood, although a special machine is used to collect just the plasma. It takes about 15 minutes to complete the health screening; and then about 45-60 minutes to collect CCP, about twice as long as when you donate whole blood.

To donate CCP, you must be eligible to donate blood. Criteria are:

  • Being in good general health
  • Meeting routine blood donor criteria
  • Age 18 or older
  • Appropriate iron levels and blood pressure
  • Weighing at least 110 pounds

Donors ages 16-18 must meet more specific height and weight requirements as well as having parents’ permission to donate.

Also, to donate CCP, infections must be documented so additional criteria include:

  • Having had symptoms of COVID infection with diagnosis confirmed by a physician and a positive test result
  • Being free of symptoms for more than 14 days. A negative COVID test is not required.

Puca recommends contacting your blood center to learn more about any impact getting COVID vaccine shots could have on you being able to donate CCP. “With the rollout of vaccines for the public there may be different criteria for individuals donating,” she said.

And, she said, “if COVID rates go down, we’ll still need donors. There is no substitute for blood. Having the life-saving gift of blood available for our patients relies on the generosity of our donors.”

If you have questions about CCP, donating blood or plasma or to make an appointment, go to websites like Versiti.org, AABB or contact your local blood bank or donation center in your community.

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