A common goal of all American Red Cross initiatives is to prevent and alleviate suffering. Generous donors, loyal volunteers, and dedicated staff allows the Red Cross to continue to provide lifesaving blood products to those in need. In recent months, the Red Cross has worked diligently in cooperation with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to identify recovered coronavirus patients who may be eligible to donate COVID-19 convalescent plasma in order to help ensure patients receive the best possible treatments.
What Is Convalescent Plasma?
Convalescent plasma is plasma collected from an individual who recently recovered from an illness. After individuals recover from an illness, their plasma contains antibodies that may help fight off the disease. For this reason, convalescent plasma is currently being evaluated as a possible treatment option for those with serious or immediately life-threatening COVID-19 infections or for those who have been identified as high risk for progression to serious illness.
Coronavirus Antibody Testing
On June 15, for a limited time, the American Red Cross began testing all blood, platelet and plasma donations for COVID-19 antibodies. The COVID-19 antibody test is authorized by the FDA and may indicate if a donor’s immune system has produced antibodies to this coronavirus, regardless of whether they developed symptoms. The Red Cross hopes testing will provide critical insight into whether donors may have possibly been exposed to this coronavirus, as some COVID-19 carriers can be asymptomatic. Those who test positive for COVID-19 antibodies may be eligible to take part in our COVID-19 convalescent plasma donation program. Learn more about the COVID-19 antibody test.
Convalescent Plasma Donation
The outpouring of support and inquiries from potential donors has been substantial – including donors like Paige Fallon of Powell, Ohio. As a student at the University of South Carolina, Paige recently enrolled in an international studies program in Europe. Due to the growing pandemic concerns, her travel was cut short. After returning home, she grew ill and eventually tested positive for COVID-19. After several weeks of quarantine, she fully recovered.
Soon after, she became aware of a new effort by the Red Cross to collect plasma donations from individuals who are fully recovered from the coronavirus. Paige had never donated blood or plasma before, but she immediately signed up to help.
“I felt compelled to help,” Paige said. “I also knew that I was one of the first people to be diagnosed with the virus in the state of Ohio.” Paige reasoned that since she had healed from the illness, she would have the necessary antibodies in her blood. Paige gave a plasma donation with the Red Cross on April 21.
Paige says the process to donate was a smooth one. “The staff members of the Red Cross, were very attentive through the whole process, making it a quick start to finish process.” During a plasma donation, blood is drawn and an automated process removes the plasma. Other blood components, including the red blood cells, are then comfortably and safely returned back to the donor.
Knowing how important this treatment may be for some patients who are critically ill with COVID-19, Paige encourages people to donate because “this is a time when so many people are looking for a light at the end of a tunnel, whether it be struggling with a loss or struggling to stay hopeful during a time when hope is almost non-existent.” She encourages others to “be that light at the end of the tunnel, be the hope that someone longs for.”
All over the country, donors like Paige have made it possible for doctors to begin evaluating this potentially lifesaving treatment. Thank you to Paige and all our other courageous convalescent plasma donors.
How You Can Donate Plasma
The Red Cross is actively seeking individuals who have previously tested positive for COVID-19 and are fully recovered from the coronavirus to sign up to donate plasma to help those who are still battling COVID-19. In order to donate, recovered individuals must meet all regular blood donation requirements, including having a positive COVID-19 diagnostic test from the time of their illness, as well as several criteria specific to this initiative. Donors must also be fully recovered and symptom free. Individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are fully recovered are asked to submit the donor request form, so that they can safely be screened for eligibility.
Additional information on convalescent plasma donations and the donor request form can be found here: www.RedCrossBlood.org/plasma4covid