Convalescent plasma has been an effective treatment for those hospitalized with COVID-19, but the demand is now exceeding supply in the region.
Ballad Health officials ask people who have recovered from the virus or tested positive with no symptoms to consider donating plasma to help in the treatment of people who are hospitalized with the illness.
The use of convalescent plasma began with Ballad Health’s participation in a nationwide study of its effectiveness under the direction of the Mayo Clinic. The plasma of those who have had the virus contains antibodies that when given to hospitalized patients boost their ability to fight off the virus.
Convalescent plasma is now a critical tool in treating the virus, said Eric Deaton, chief operating officer for Ballad Health.
“With the rising number of COVID-19 cases, we are concerned that we are not seeing the level of donations that we saw early on,” he said.
Thus far, Ballad Health has administered 1,938 units of plasma to virus patients. However, 1,863 of those units have been donated in this region, Deaton said.
“Obviously, we have had to go outside the region and purchase plasma to help support our patients,” he said. “With the number of people who have tested positive, there is not a reason for us to have to go outside our region to purchase plasma.”
With the number of people who have had COVID-19 in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, there are many who are eligible to donate plasma, Deaton said.
“We really would ask that people who have been COVID-19 positive to consider donating plasma. It is really, really important,” he said. “It is the one thing you can do if you have tested positive to really support the patients who are in our hospitals today.”
People are eligible to give if they have recovered from the virus or tested positive without symptoms and are within three months of either their recovery and a positive test, Deaton said. Most people no longer have the antibodies after three months of recovering from the illness.
In addition to plasma, donations of whole blood and platelets are also needed.
“We always have a need and typically see donations go down during the holidays,” he said.
For more information about donating either plasma or whole blood, contact the Marsh Regional Blood Center at 423-408-7500. Marsh Regional Blood Center is the provider of blood products to the Ballad Health system.