With the rise in COVID-19 cases beginning in June, blood donation center LifeSouth is once again seeking donors for blood plasma containing COVID-19 antibodies. This special plasma, called “convalescent plasma” is given to patients who are ill to help combat the infection.
Antibodies are produced when an individual is infected with the novel coronavirus and their immune system begins to recognize and neutralize this “intruder.” These antibodies then attach themselves to the surface of the virus, rendering it unable to penetrate healthy cells, and therefore inert.
April Johnson – Spence, Community Development Coordinator of LifeSouth said that earlier in the year, the request for convalescent plasma has risen from 40 requests per week from the hospitals they serve in Florida, Georgia and Alabama. LifeSouth actually had an 8-month supply of plasma, which is stable for one year after collection. With the newest outbreak, the number of requests has risen to approximately 500 as of the week of August 9, 2021.
Spence emphasized also that there are other needs for blood and its components aside from COVID-19. “Just because we’re having a spike right now with COVID, and needing that plasman, it has not slowed cancer down … Car accidents are still happening.” Donors of all types are needed for all types of patients.
It takes more time to donate plasma as opposed to whole blood donation. The bonus is that the needle used is smaller. The extra time is needed to extract the blood using a device called apheresis. This device separates the antibody-containing plasma from the red and white blood cells. The plasma is collected, and the red and white cells are returned to the donor.
Plasma can be donated every 4 weeks.
At LifeSouth, the process begins with setting an appointment, even for a mobile unit. This ensures your experience is as seamless as possible. Online appointments for mobile units can be made at https://donors.lifesouth.org/donor/schedules/zip or the donor center at https://donors.lifesouth.org/donor/schedules/center/7 or by calling the donation center at (352) 596-2002. The LifeSouth donation center is located at 12395 Cortez Blvd., Brooksville, FL 34613
Weekend hours are available. Saturday: 7:30 AM — 2:00 PM and Sunday: 9:30 AM — 4:00 PM. Weekdays are available 8:00 AM — 5:00 PM.
When you arrive to donate, you will be given forms to fill out about your medical history and medications. Afterwards, a mini-medical screening is conducted to further check eligibility. Depending on the preliminaries, you may be asked to donate for a specific need. For example, someone whose blood type is O-negative may be asked to donate two units of whole blood due to this group’s “Universal Donor” status.
Will you be able to donate plasma?
Not everyone is eligible to donate plasma. Again, please don’t let that stop you from donating at all.
Donors who tested positive for COVID-19 prior to receiving the vaccine and are within 6 months of recovering from COVID-19 may be eligible to donate convalescent plasma. According to the literature provided on LifeSouth’s website, “In this situation, further review of your donor questionnaire is required and will be conducted by LifeSouth staff.”
Donors who have been vaccinated however never tested positive for COVID or had symptoms of COVID-19 prior to vaccination are not eligible to donate at this time, because it is not certain if the antibodies produced by the vaccine will be as effective as “natural antibodies” from recovered COVID-19 patients. This also applies to anyone who has never been diagnosed with COVID-19.