Blood plasma donation: Who can donate blood plasma? How to sign up

Blood plasma has formed part of the response to the coronavirus pandemic this year, with doctors looking everywhere in search of viable treatments for the deadly disease. A few methods have already proven effective, including drug dexamethasone, while scientists work to develop a vaccine. Blood plasma has several uses, and donors can help other people fight off COVID-19.

Who can donate blood plasma?

Blood plasma is a yellow liquid which carries red and white blood cells and platelets around the blood.

People who recover from COVID-19 will have white blood cells geared towards fighting the disease.

Those who donate their plasma can pass on these programmed cells to those currently fighting the disease, helping them recover quickly.

READ MORE: Coronavirus breakthrough: Blood from recovered patients aids sufferers

NHSBT also provides a selection of other criteria disqualifying people from donation on their website, where they can also register their interest.

Some people may feel apprehensive about donating during a pandemic, but organisers have said doing so is entirely safe.

They have added increased COVID-19 measures such as cleaning, masks and more to shield donors.

An NHS Blood and Transplant spokesperson said: “Blood donation is as safe as possible.”

“We’ve put extra safety measures in place, and safety is always our number one priority.

“We’re spacing donors out, doing extra cleaning, our staff are wearing face masks, and we’re triaging everyone who arrives so only people with no risk factors can enter the donation area.

“We’re asking donors to follow the latest advice on our website and app and the advice from the Government.

“We’re constantly reviewing the latest information and putting in place measures where needed. Safety is always our number one priority.”

Fauci and other health officials had been skeptical of plasma treatments before Trump's announcement

Several top health officials had previously been skeptical there was enough data to justify emergency plasma authorization.

Among those skeptics: Dr. Francis Collins, head of the National Institutes of Health; Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the nation’s premiere infectious disease expert; and Dr. H. Clifford Lane, who works under Fauci at the NIH, according to a knowledgeable source.

Beating the virus and reopening the country have long been central to Trump’s push for a second term. A document from the Trump campaign outlining Trump’s second term agenda makes eradicating Covid-19 one of its top priorities. The document’s bullet points include, “Develop a Vaccine by The End Of 2020” and “Return to Normal in 2021.”

“And frankly, in terms of quality, if you look at what we’re doing and what we’re coming up with, drug companies are coming out with vaccines that are I’ve seen some results already — it’s going to be very, very soon — in stage three trials,” Trump told a crowd of Republican delegates as he kicked off his convention in Charlotte on Monday.

At his Sunday news conference announcing the convalescent plasma news, Trump said he believed “political reasons” had slowed down FDA’s approval of the therapeutic treatment, but that he “broke the logjam” last week. Those remarks amounted to tacit confirmation that he applied pressure on the agency ahead of its announcement.

The day before, Trump had alleged, without evidence, that a “deep state” within the FDA was deliberately delaying coronavirus vaccine trials, pressuring Dr. Stephen Hahn, the man he had picked to head the agency.

It’s the latest example of a President who has previously touted unproven treatments for coronavirus politicizing the science around a disease that has already killed more than 176,000 Americans.

Trump has butted heads with scientific advisers before and hasn’t been shy about calling them out when they disagree about the dire state of the pandemic, frequently training his ire at Fauci, as well as criticizing warnings from Dr. Deborah Birx and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield, among others.

And while Trump has at times sparred with his medical experts, the White House has given wide authority to non-medical experts to talk about medical developments. White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, who is not a medical doctor and has no medical training but a Ph. D. in economics, told reporters Monday that convalescent plasma “is one of the safest therapies you can imagine” and suggested the timing for the EUA announcement was “late.” An EUA is not the same as an approval, but allows for larger distribution of the treatment.

“The odds of it hurting you are close to zero, the odds of it helping are close to 100%,” he said, noting that the FDA suggests it could lead to a 35% reduction in mortality.

He added, “Convalescent plasma, that’s like going after Bambi, it’s proven safe and effective.”

But the 35% figure, from a Mayo Clinic study that has not yet been peer reviewed, does not, in fact, show a 35% reduction in deaths in those treated versus those not treated, but among those treated earlier and at higher doses than those treated later and at lower doses. There is not yet randomized clinical trial data on convalescent plasma to treat Covid-19. Some of those trials are underway.

Navarro pushed back on questions about the announcement’s timing around the Republican convention, calling himself an “integral part” of the strategic national stockpile and vaccine and therapeutic development teams, despite having no medical background.

Pressed again by CNN’s Joe Johns on what new information or new data led to the emergency use authorization, he said he was “not privy to what the decisions were and what the data was. I haven’t looked at that.”

A prominent vaccine expert told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Sunday that the White House may have bullied the FDA into giving emergency use authorization to using blood plasma.

“I think what’s happening here is you’re seeing bullying, at least at the highest level of the FDA, and I’m sure that there are people at the FDA right now who are the workers there that are as upset about this as I am,” said Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

The administration has also raised the idea of fast-tracking the distribution of vaccines via an EUA before phase three trials were completed, sources say. On July 30, during broader negotiations over the coronavirus relief legislation inside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer asked the White House officials in the room how things were going on the vaccine effort, according to two sources familiar with the meeting.

It was at that point that White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin walked through the various pieces of vaccine development, and then suggested that the AstraZeneca effort could be ready by September. As the conversation continued, the White House officials raised the possibility of an emergency use authorization before phase three trials were completed.

At that point, Pelosi interrupted to tell Mnuchin and Meadows there should be no cutting of corners during the vaccine development process.

The Financial Times first reported the details of the July meeting.

Michael Caputo, the assistant secretary for public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, on Sunday denied that there was any effort to fast-track vaccine development for political purposes.

“This is not true, don’t believe it. Talk of an October surprise vaccine plot is a lurid Resistance fantasy designed to undermine the President’s Coronavirus response. And nobody, but nobody, among the career FDA regulators I know will ever stand quietly for political pressure,” Caputo said.

Meadows on Monday morning also dismissed concerns that there’s political pressure to fast-track a vaccine, reiterating that the administration’s “Operation Warp Speed” will protectively produce large quantities of vaccines in phase three trials.

“Yeah that’s not happening. I can tell you, we’re going through a standard clinical process like any other drug would happen and then what we’re speeding up is the non-testing side of it,” he said, going on to tout manufacturing capacity and the idea that the vaccines will be ready to distribute “if indeed they prove efficacy for the American people.”

Trump has a history of pushing unproven — and potentially dangerous — treatments for a virus that has crippled the economy on which he was basing much of reelection pitch.

One study of the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine, which he has said he has taken himself as a prophylaxis, showed it helped patients better survive in the hospital, but other studies have found no benefit, and some have seen patients with cardiac side effects.
He’s also dangerously suggested ingesting disinfectant could possibly be used to treat people who have the virus, as well as sunlight as a treatment alternative.

Kevin Liptak, Jake Tapper and Jim Acosta contributed to this story.

Pregnant woman survives COVID after given plasma

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) — Houston resident Esbeidy Reyes is expecting a daughter in September. However, earlier this month, that dream could have been lost when she began to feel tired, and from more than just her pregnancy.

“I left work early because of a headache,” Reyes said. “Then I started to run a fever.”

Her husband took her to a hospital where she was examined and tested for COVID-19. The result was positive. “I self-quarantined for several days, but then I kept getting worse.”

She ended up in ICU at Memorial Hermann Hospital in the Texas Medical Center.

“I felt awful” she said. “I was having trouble breathing, and I didn’t want anything to happen by my baby.”

Reyes was already a high-risk pregnancy patient. She miscarried late last year. “My husband and I found out we were pregnant on his birthday this year.”

She was in ICU for days. “I signed the c-section paperwork. I thought only my baby was going to survive. I didn’t think I was going to survive,” she said.

Her doctor administered plasma from someone who had recovered from the virus, which contains antibodies. Reyes responded quickly. “Two days later I was able to get out of the hospital bed without help. She was discharged just over a week ago.”

She doesn’t know how she became infected. “I go to work, and the grocery store and go home.”

Because she works in the medical profession, she was already paying attention to the growing number of cases in the Houston area. “I know about hospital admissions, and they started going up after the businesses reopened. All those people and everyone acting like the COVID-19 was gone, and I was like, it’s not gone.”

Her infant daughter, named Arianna, is set to be delivered in September. Reyes said she will tell her one day what they both went through because of a pandemic.

“I’m going to tell her she’s my little soldier. She’s my motivation. She kept me going. I didn’t want to lose my baby.”

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Doctor can't donate plasma because he is gay

CHICAGO (CBS) — Dr. Dillon Barron is a frontline emergency room doctor on the city’s North Side.

He was also once a COVID-19 patient himself and has since recovered. But when he tried to donate his plasma to help save others, he was flat-out denied because he is gay.

Barron and his partner sat down with CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey.

Blood donation guidelines have been the center of controversy for years. But in the age of COVID-19, blood and plasma donations are crucial.

Barron and his partner, and their U.S. representative, are hoping it will be enough for change.

Barron cares night and day for COVID-19 patients.

“We saw lots of death, lots of sad stories, lots of young people,” he said.

Both he and his partner contracted COVID-19 themselves. It’s been a long, exhausting road, and they were excited to donating their anti-body rich plasma.

“I really felt passionate about doing something; wanting to be in control and feel like I was helping people,” Barron said.

But according to the Food and Drug Administration blood donation guidelines, there was zero chance – because men who have sex with men can only donate if they have not been sexually active for three months. That applies regardless of whether they’re in committed relationships or practicing safe sex.

“We’re sitting on something that could be saving lives,” Barron said.

One study found that blood banks could be missing out on hundreds of thousands of pints of blood due to this policy.

“Those won’t be available because of bigotry or laziness or people who don’t believe in science,” said Barron’s partner, Eric Seelbach.

So is the policy backed by science? We asked an HIV expert.

“Short answer is there is no science currently to support that,” said Dr. Anu Hazra, infectious disease physician University of Chicago and staff physician at the Howard Brown Health Center.

Hazra said the guidelines, “going from a lifetime ban, to a 12-month ban, to a 3-month ban, are based on 1983 regulations surrounding the HIV epidemic.

But testing and screening has improved dramatically since then.

Instead, Hazra advocates for “individual risk assessments for every donor, regardless of whether they are gay or straight.”

And that’s exactly what U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois) thinks. It’s part of House Resolution 989, introduced earlier this month.

“There is no reason behind it that’s based on science,” Schakowsky said.

We introduced Schakowsky to Barron and Seelnach. And they are all hopeful for some change.

“I didn’t realize that here were really awesome people in our corner who were willing to work on this,” Barron said.

“We really need to make progress, and what you are advocating is to help,” Schakowsky said.

House Resolution 989 was referred to committee.

Schakowsky is hopeful that the blood shortages caused by the pandemic will push legislators to pass it.