Red Cross asking recovered COVID-19 patients to donate plasma, citing shortage amid doubled demand

The American Red Cross is asking for recovered COVID-19 patients to donate their convalescent plasma after announcing a shortage Tuesday, citing a doubling in demand over the past month due to a sharp rise in new coronavirus cases across the U.S.

“It is critical that COVID-19 survivors give their antibody-rich plasma now to ensure this blood product is available to help those actively battling this coronavirus,” said Dr. Pampee Young, chief medical officer of American Red Cross Biomedical Services. “Convalescent plasma has been used for decades as a potentially lifesaving treatment until virus or disease specific treatments and vaccines are developed. It remains crucially important today in the fight against this COVID-19 pandemic.”

The Red Cross, along with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, are asking for anyone who has fully recovered after contracting the novel coronavirus to sign up to donate convalescent plasma on the Red Cross website.

“Convalescent plasma is the liquid part of blood that is collected from patients who have recovered from an infection,” according to the FDA.

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While it is not proven that the plasma is an effective treatment for COVID-19, it does allow most patients to have plasma transfusions without the risk of suffering an allergic reaction and other side effects, according to the FDA.

“Among patients with severe or life-threatening COVID-19, convalescent plasma therapy added to standard treatment did not significantly improve the time to clinical improvement within 28 days, although the trial was terminated early and may have been underpowered to detect a clinically important difference,” according to a randomized clinical trial study published in JAMA Network Open, a medical journal published by the American Medical Association.

Convalescent plasma is being evaluated as a treatment for patients with serious or immediately life-threatening COVID-19 infections, or those judged by a health care provider to be at high risk of progression to severe or life-threatening disease, according to the Red Cross.

These are the requirements for anyone wishing to donate:

-You are at least 17 years old and weigh 110 lbs. Additional weight requirements apply for donors age 18 or younger.

-In good health. You generally feel well, even if you're being treated for a chronic condition.

-Have a prior, verified diagnosis of COVID-19, but are now symptom free and fully recovered from COVID-19.

Recovered COVID-19 patients who want to donate plasma can visit the Red Cross website to fill out the form.

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Convalescent plasma has been used to prevent infectious diseases including pneumonia, tetanus, diphtheria, mumps and chickenpox for over a century.

It is thought to benefit patients because antibodies from the plasma of survivors bind to and inactivate pathogens or their toxins in patients. Convalescent plasma has now been used in thousands of COVID-19 patients, according to William Petri, a physician and scientist at the University of Virginia.

The only randomized clinical trial for its use in those suffering from COVID-19, however, was small and included just 103 patients who received convalescent plasma 14 days after they became ill. There was no difference in the time to clinical improvement or mortality between those who did and did not receive treatment. according to the study.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.