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Plasma Donations Essential in Fighting COVID-19

Plasma Donations Essential in Fighting COVID-19
Dennis Williams, MD

Kentucky Blood Center Medical Director,
Director of Transfusion Medicine, University of Kentucky Medical Center

It’s been more than a year now since the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), which is responsible for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), began impacting our lives.  While we knew we were facing a formidable opponent from the onset, no one quite predicted the many ways this disease would impact our daily lives more than 12 months later. 

Early on after cases began surfacing in the United States, the FDA issued an emergency investigational new drug protocol (eIND) for the use of COVID-19 convalescent plasma as treatment in patients with severe or life-threatening disease.  COVID-19 convalescent plasma is plasma from individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies to the virus in their blood.  The idea is to transfer passive immunity to the patient.  As more patients have received this treatment, and studies have shown effectiveness when given appropriately, the FDA has since issued an emergency use authorization for CCP with high titer antibody levels to be used early in the course of infection.

Kentucky Blood Center was one of the first in the country to begin collecting convalescent plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients just three days after the eIND was issued by the FDA. Since that time, plasma has been collected from more than 660 recovered COVID-19 patients, providing nearly 4,000 doses of convalescent plasma. 

Kentucky hospitals have been critical in helping find recovered COVID-19 patients for plasma donations, enabling Kentucky Blood Center to maintain a strong supply of the product throughout the past year. In September, KBC began antibody testing all blood donors as another way to identify potential CCP donors. Interest from existing and potential donors helped increase the blood supply, which was at critical levels throughout the fall, and helped KBC identify a large pool of new CCP donors. 

The impact of CCP in the COVID-19 patient’s treatment isn’t clear, but hospitals throughout Kentucky have utilized the product in an effort to improve the health of Kentuckians battling this terrible disease. As the numbers of Americans being vaccinated increases and herd immunity becomes a greater probability, the need for convalescent plasma for treatment will diminish. 

Kentucky Blood Center is proud to serve Kentucky hospitals as the only local provider of convalescent plasma in the early months after its approval. KBC also salutes its hospital partners throughout the state for the exceptional care provided to those combating COVID-19. It’s not work any of us were likely prepared for but we should be proud of the way we’ve all stepped up to help our neighbors.