Donors are needed this fall to maintain the blood supply to support the needs of all patients
Beginning this week, plasma from whole blood donations made through the American Red Cross that test positive for COVID-19 antibodies may now help coronavirus patients in need of convalescent plasma transfusions. This new opportunity to help meet the needs of COVID-19 patients is especially critical as infectious disease experts express concern about a potential second wave of cases in the fall.
In April, the Red Cross began collecting COVID-19 convalescent plasma from previously diagnosed individuals, which could only give at one of approximately 170 Red Cross blood donation centers across the country. Convalescent plasma contains COVID-19 antibodies that may help the most critical patients actively fighting this virus. Now, whole blood and donations made at any Red Cross blood drive or blood donation center may be helpful in this effort.
The Red Cross encourages eligible individuals to give blood as we come together to help patients in need. To schedule an appointment to donate, individuals may use the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit RedCrossBlood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS.
“With only 2% of the U.S. population testing positive for COVID-19, finding eligible convalescent plasma donors to help patients is a little like finding a needle in a haystack,” says Dr. Pampee Young, chief medical officer, American Red Cross. “Being able to use the plasma from all blood donations that test positive for COVID-19 antibodies is a game changer in helping to build a readily available supply of convalescent plasma to ensure patients have access to all treatment options available to help them recover from this terrible virus.”
On Sept. 21, the Red Cross began secondary testing of donations that come back positive to confirm COVID-19 antibody test results. This enables the Red Cross to then potentially use the plasma from those donations to aid coronavirus patients. These tests are also critical in helping to identify individuals who have COVID-19 antibodies and may qualify as convalescent plasma donors for future donation.
RED CROSS ANTIBODY TESTING COVID-19 antibody test results will be available to donors within one to two weeks in the Red Cross Blood Donor App or donor portal at RedCrossBlood.org. Antibody testing may indicate if the donor’s immune system has produced antibodies to this coronavirus, regardless of whether an individual experienced COVID-19 symptoms. A positive antibody test result does not confirm infection or immunity. The Red Cross is not testing donors to diagnose illness, referred to as a diagnostic test.
The Red Cross hopes that COVID-19 antibody testing will help provide our valued donors insight into whether they may have been exposed to this coronavirus. Between June 15 and September 12, the Red Cross tested more than 1.2 million donations in 44 states. Of the donations we tested approximately 2.0% showed positive for COVID-19 antibodies.
CONVALESCENT PLASMA DONORS The Red Cross has a critical need for eligible COVID-19 survivors to sign-up to give convalescent plasma. With each donation these plasma donors have the ability to help as many as four patients recover from the virus. Additionally, eligible donors may now give with the Red Cross every seven days enabling them to help more COVID-19 patients as we approach the fall and winter months.
COVID-19 BLOOD DONATION SAFETY Each Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows the highest standards of safety and infection control, and additional precautions – including temperature checks, social distancing and face coverings for donors and staff – have been implemented to help protect the health of all those in attendance. Donors are asked to schedule an appointment prior to arriving at the drive and are required to wear a face covering or mask while at the drive, in alignment with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention public guidance.
ABOUT BLOOD DONATION All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients. A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.
Blood and platelet donors can save time at their next donation by using RapidPass® to complete their pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of their donation, before arriving at the blood drive. To get started, follow the instructions at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass or use the Blood Donor App.