Demand for convalescent plasma exceeds supply; vaccine recipients unable to donate

Published: Jan. 11, 2021 at 11:49 AM CST|Updated: Jan. 11, 2021 at 6:08 PM CST
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - The demand for blood and convalescent plasma is high as COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths reach new levels across the country.

“It’s harder than ever for us to get donors to come in,” Benjamin Prijatel, Senior Director of Blood Operations for LifeShare Blood Centers said.

Prijatel said COVID-19 precautions have led to less foot traffic inside of their facilities.

A hot commodity now, as more people test positive for coronavirus, is convalescent plasma. It’s a form of treatment that takes plasma from COVID-19 survivors to treat current COVID-19 patients.

Prijatel said every donation provides about two or three units of convalescent plasma. That could save the lives of up to three people.

Dr. David Holcombe, Region 6 Medical Director for the Office of Public Health, said the plasma works in treating patients with underlining health conditions or recently infected.

Although the need is great, The Food and Drug Administration is asking COVID-19 vaccine recipients to hold off on donating their plasma.

In a report by the American Association of Blood Banks, the agency advised against receiving donations from “individuals who have received an investigational COVID-19 vaccine because of the uncertainty regarding the quality of the immune response produced by such investigational vaccines.”

Dr. Holcombe agreed, pointing to the time it takes for the vaccine to develop immunity.

“The first shot gives you 50 percent, the second shot...95 percent or higher, but you’re not fully protected until two weeks after the second shot,” he said. “It’s just medical prudence. They don’t want people to give plasma after the vaccine.”

Prijatel said as people wait for their group to qualify to receive a vaccine, they should practice migration measures, and if they’re eligible, donate plasma to help others recover.

“If you know you’re gonna get that vaccine soon or if you’ve had COVID-19 or a convalescent donor, make that last donation right away,” he said.

Blood donations are not affected by receiving a vaccine. To schedule a donation, click here.

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