NJ Expands 'Life-Saving' Plasma Treatment For Coronavirus

Tom Davis

NEW JERSEY – Gov. Phil Murphy, speaking during a Saturday news conference, announced an "exciting" expansion of New Jersey's "life-saving" efforts to treat coronavirus patients with plasma therapy, which is used when a vaccine isn't available. He made the announcement as he announced 1,759 new cases and 166 more deaths (you can watch it live here, below).

Murphy also made the announcement as the number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey has risen to 137,085, and 9,116 people have died. Read more: NJ Coronavirus Updates: Here's What You Need To Know

Murphy announced that New Jersey has partnered with American Red Cross to set up two new convalescent plasma collection sites in New Jersey. Convalescent plasma collection will begin at the American Red Cross blood center in Fairfield and University Hospital in Newark on Monday, he said.

Murphy said the Food and Drug Administration recently announced a new initiative to collect plasma from those who have recovered from the coronavirus to treat patients with serious or immediately life-threatening COVID-19 infections.

This therapy uses the blood plasma from patients who have recovered from COVID-19 to treat new patients who are severely ill with the virus, he said. The blood plasma from recovered patients contains antibodies that may help critically ill patients fight the virus.

University Hospital is one of the first hospitals in the state to receive the FDA approval for convalescent plasma treatment in New Jersey and remains one of only a few hospitals in the state offering this treatment, Murphy said. Approximately 100 COVID-19 patients at University Hospital have been treated with convalescent plasma.

The effectiveness of this treatment is not yet known, Murphy said. But many patients who have received this therapy at University Hospital have recovered.

Indeed, two patients who were recently hospitalized in critical condition after testing positive for new coronavirus at Virtua Hospital in Voorhees recovered after receiving convalescent plasma transfusions, the health system announced. Read more: First 2 NJ Coronavirus Patients Recover After Plasma Therapy

Historically, convalescent plasma has been used as a potentially life-saving treatment in situations when new diseases or infections develop quickly, and no treatments or vaccines were available yet, Murphy noted.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated our communities and hit North Jersey particularly hard,” said Murphy. “By opening two convalescent plasma collections sites in North Jersey, where there is a concentration of the state’s highest infection rates and deaths, the American Red Cross can identify more donors and better serve patients in need of this therapy."

Eligible individuals must be fully recovered from COVID-19 and symptom -ree, and must otherwise meet regular blood donation eligibility criteria. Individuals are encouraged to register to donate at RedCrossBlood.org/plasma4covid.

Once registered, someone will follow up to qualify the potential donor, and once qualified, the donor will receive an appointment time and location to donate. The plasma collection is by appointment only.

Other New Jersey hospitals are participating in the FDA’s program to access convalescent plasma for their patients by accessing one of the three pathways which they can acquire plasma. If not already registered to participate with the Red Cross to access plasma, hospitals may register by clicking here.

This is a developing story. Patch will have more information as it comes in.

Murphy also has announced a major expansion of New Jersey's coronavirus detection program by allowing people without symptoms to go for tests at two sites. Murphy made the announcement as he announced 1,985 new cases and 162 more deaths, again continuing a downward trend. Read more: Gov. Murphy: NJ Begins Coronavirus Tests For Asymptomatic People

Watch Murphy live here:

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This article originally appeared on the Point Pleasant Patch