VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System is partnering with Vitalant Blood Services in encouraging recovered COVID-19 patients to donate convalescent plasma. These much-needed plasma units could save lives of local veterans who may be fighting against the virus in the future.
“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has regulated COVID Convalescent Plasma, or CCP, as an investigational COVID-19 treatment,” said Dr. Jason Dazley, a VASNHS Infectious Disease specialist. “It’s a way to treat critically ill patients who have few, if any, options left.”
Convalescent plasma is the liquid part of blood that contains antibodies. The body generates these blood proteins to fight against specific infections, such as COVID-19. Antibodies can directly attack the virus that causes COVID-19, as well as cells that the virus has entered. “It’s believed that COVID-19 patients may improve faster if they receive plasma from those who have recovered from the disease,” said Dazley.
Nationally, Department of Veteran Affairs is partnering with the Mayo Clinic on an expanded-access study to evaluate CCP therapy for COVID-19 patients. VASNHS has been using CCP in treating veterans who have tested positive for COVID-19 since early May. Vitalant has played an integral role in helping to facilitate the extracting and processing of these donations. This partnership has helped VASNHS become one of the first VA health care systems in the nation to pioneer this process.
VASNHS patients, staff, volunteers and others who have recovered from COVID-19 and want their plasma used to assist in treating veterans are encouraged to use the VA referral process to donate CCP though Vitalant. “The biggest thing is, if we refer them, we get plasma back,” said Leanne Beasley, VASNHS Blood Bank supervisor. “We hope to build up enough of an inventory and variety of blood types to have a unit ready for any veteran in need.”
For CCP donations, many of the same requirements and criteria for blood donations still apply. However, there are some differences compared to normal blood donations. Only people who have tested positive and recovered from COVID-19 are eligible to donate CCP. Donors who are between 14-27 days without symptoms will need a confirmed negative test result, while those who are more than 28 days out do not. With plasma, donors can donate every seven to ten days, depending on the donor’s health.
Beasley says that VASNHS is looking for donations of all blood types. “The universal plasma donation type is AB, but type A can be used for about 85 percent of the recipient population,” she said. “And luckily RH-type doesn’t matter with plasma.”
While the normally scheduled blood drives at VASNHS have been postponed due to the pandemic, VASNHS and Vitalant normally conduct as many as five drives per year at the North Las Vegas VA Medical Center. “We have run Vitalant blood drives at our facility for five years, and we bring in a lot of blood for them at our drives,” said Beasley. “I’ve been told that we bring in more units for them than anyone in the local community, and we aren’t as big as many of the other hospitals. A lot of that is because we have a lot of veterans who appreciate and understand the need for donating blood.”
Individuals interested in donating convalescent plasma, should contact Lynda Kruithoff at 702-791-9000, Ext. 13257 to begin the screening process. To learn more about the criteria for CCP donation, visit www.vitalant.org/COVIDfree.