ATLANTA, GA — As the number of people hospitalized for complications from the coronavirus in Georgia continues to rise, there is a critical need for survivors to donate plasma to help patients currently fighting COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus.
Northside Hospital and Atlanta Blood Services are urgently seeking recovered coronavirus patients to participate in the collection of convalescent plasma, which is used to treat current COVID patients. Carrie Cox, the executive director of ABS, said while this treatment method is still being studied, there are patients who have benefited from this program.
“When you have a virus, you make antibodies that help attack that type of virus. With COVID[-19], as you’re exposed to that virus, you make those antibodies and they’re circulating in the liquid portion of your blood,” Cox told Patch. “After you’ve already fended off the illness, you’ve still got those [antibodies] circulating in there, and there’s a process for us to be able to remove them … so that it is readily available for patients who are severely ill and have not yet made their own antibodies.”
Since launching the convalescent plasma program at Northside Hospital, ABS has collected more than 1,700 units of plasma from 563 donors, per a press release from Northside — but this supply is being quickly depleted, and there is a waiting list for plasma.
“We’ve had a really good turnout from our community with seniors. Right now though, our struggle is that all of our seniors who were sick back in the spring and early summer, their antibody levels are beginning to drop off,” Cox said. “So what we really need are the patients who’ve recovered in the past 14 to 90 days.”
Qualified plasma donors must meet the following criteria:
Be over the age of 18
Have not received the coronavirus vaccine
Have previously tested positive for COVID-19 or had a positive COVID-19 antibody test
Have been symptom-free for at least 14 days
Successfully screen as a blood donor per Food and Drug Administration blood donation guidelines
“We’ve been using convalescent plasma for over 100 years; it was used in the Spanish flu, polio, measles, H1N1, Ebola and SARS. There’s a lot of information about doing this and it’s very well understood,” said Dr. H. Kent Holland, medical director of the Blood and Marrow Transplant Program at Northside Hospital and the ABS apheresis collection facility, in the press release. “There’s a lot of work still to be done to show if this will work, but historically it does.”
Cox said ABS is also looking for platelet and red blood cell donors as the country is facing a blood shortage.
“People aren’t able to come in because they’re quarantining, or they’ve had a potential exposure, or they’re busy [with the holidays] and they haven’t been able to come in and donate,” Cox said during the interview.
For more information about donating plasma, platelets or red blood cells, or to schedule an appointment, call 404-477-1299 or visit Atlanta Blood Services’ website.