After emergency FDA authorization, SC blood banks prepare for increased demand for convalescent plasma

Updated: Aug. 28, 2020 at 12:09 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Ann Taylor said she thought she had a chest cold in June.

She went to an urgent care facility and doctors suggested she get tested for COVID-19. To her surprise, Taylor tested positive. For the next month and a half, she had to stay home even though she really didn’t show symptoms.

“I tested positive three times and my fourth and fifth test were both negative,” she said.

After she recovered, Taylor began looking into donating her plasma to help other South Carolinians who may have COVID-19.

“I looked into seeing if I would be a good candidate for it. Turns out I was,” Taylor said.

She donated a couple of weeks ago with the Red Cross.

Rogers Pender came down with COVID-19 in March. She wasn’t hospitalized, but Pender said she felt very ill.

“I could not walk up my stairs without having to pause and catch my breath,” she said.

It took a couple of weeks, but Pender made a full recovery. She said her doctor wrote her a letter suggesting she look into donating her plasma. Pender said she had never donated blood before but did not hesitate.

“It’s an incredible feeling, " she said. “We all just feel so helpless in this pandemic, but this helps with that sense of fear and anxiety that there is something you can do to help.”

Blood banks in the state are hoping more donors like Taylor and Pender step forward to donate their plasma. Just a few days ago, the FDA authorized emergency use of convalescent plasma to treat COVID-19 patients.

This isn’t a new treatment. Some hospitals in South Carolina have been giving COVID-19 patients these plasma transfusions as a part of a national trial as early as April. The convalescent plasma from the recovered patients contains antibodies that can help fight the virus, doctors said.

With the emergency use authorization from the FDA, the Blood Connection said they are really going to be relying on more donors to come forward. Medical Director Robert Rainer said demand from South Carolina hospitals could double or triple.

“Some of the hospitals did not participate in the Mayo trial so they did not use convalescent plasma. I anticipate more hospitals to be using this since the barriers have been eliminated and I anticipate more patients with COVID-19 will be getting this treatment,” he said.

Rainer said they would like to rebuild their stockpile that was nearly wiped out during the spike in cases in June and July.

The Red Cross of South Carolina has also been collecting convalescent plasma since April. External Communications Manager for South Carolina Blood Services Maya Franklin said they see more units of convalescent going out to their hospital partners than coming in right now.

“Supply is a real challenge right now. We’re looking at an emergency shortage,” she said.

She said nationwide the Red Cross has supplied 32,000 units of convalescent plasma to their partners.

Both Pender and Taylor said they are encouraging everyone they know who has recovered or knows someone who has recovered to donate their plasma.

For more information on how to donate with the Blood Connection, click or tap here.

For more information on how to donate with the Red Cross click or tap here.

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