“In the past two weeks, more than 900 units of convalescent plasma have been transfused to patients here locally in Iowa,” Christine Hayes, chief operating officer of LifeServe Blood Center in Des Moines, says. “The downside of that is that amount is more than the first four months of the pandemic, so the need for convalescent plasma is certainly outpacing the demand.”
Hayes says every blood donor at her agency is screened to see if they have Covid antibodies, indicating they had the virus and recovered — and could donate plasma as a treatment for those currently ill.
“Right now, we’re seeing just about 25% of our convalescent plasma has been provided through that unique antibody testing program,” she says.
The rest comes from people who’ve recovered, know that their plasma could be used to treat others, and are making a donation. One donation can yield up to four “doses” of convalescent plasma.
“Right now we are anticipating at the current rate of transfusions across the state of Iowa that our supply of convalescent plasma will be depleted by December 1,” she says. “Unfortunately, this is absolutely the same case in other states across the country, so our ability to receive more convalescent plasma from other blood centers across the country will be very challenging.”
There are blood centers that pay people to donate plasma, but current protocols only allow plasma donated by volunteers to be used for transfusions to Covid patients. According to the Mayo Clinic, convalescent plasma therapy may help people recover from Covid-19 by reducing the severity or shortening the duration of the disease.