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How and Where to Donate Covid-19 Recovered Plasma

Credit: MattysFlicks

It’s All About the Antibodies

Wise Proverb, Author Unknown

Hi, my name is Zeno Mercer and I am one of the co-founders of Covid Blood Drive. My background spans technology, investing and consulting across secure data systems, collaboration platforms, healthcare, artificial intelligence and blockchain technology.  I am one of the founders of CovidBloodDrive which launched out of the MIT Covid-19 Hackathon: Beat the Pandemic in April. 

We started this project because we realized there were three problems: (1) lack of information on testing and blood or plasma donation opportunities – plasma which can be to not only save lives through direct transfusion but further life saving research  (2) an outdated, poor user experience for donors, collectors and the entire healthcare system causing undue burdensome on all parties and each system is locked into their own platform and doesn’t show all the options and opportunities (3) inability to effectively identify the immune and why certain people are hit harder than others (most importantly whether long-term immunity is even possible!). 

We are working to connect and expand upon efforts from the AABB, Red Cross, the FDA, Johns Hopkins, Michigan State, Mt. Sinai and many others who are working to ramp up antibody testing and convalescent plasma treatment nationwide. We are aiming to become the most user-centric platform that takes preferences, needs of the individual and match them with the needs of their local community and global efforts.

There are multiple types of ways to detect Covid-19 exposure, through nasal swabs, blood and saliva samples. The lab and point-of-care rapid antibody tests being deployed all over the US now and in the coming weeks will unlock the next stage of the coronavirus defenses by allowing us to further track the exposed population and identify potential convalescent plasma donors. 

Why should you consider donating plasma?

  1. Save lives now. Through a process known as direct convalescent plasma transfusion, there have already been shown to be positive effects with a limited risk profile for severe cases. While there are many efforts and studies being done to test the potential of convalescent plasma at various stages, the largest effort comes from a partnership between the Mayo Clinic and the FDA.
  2. Save lives later. Plasma donations play a critical role in research and development of potential, longer term and more sustainable treatments and better diagnostics to address the pandemic. 

Up to three people can be treated from one plasma donation. People can donate once per week up to 8 weeks (give or take) but this can vary.

So no matter how you donate, your donation will help us get back to our new normal more quickly, while saving lives in the process.  

Who is qualified to donate plasma?

  1. Those with COVID-19 history or negative PCR test and high antibody titer levels
    1. Since plasma and blood donations require the donor to share his or her COVID-19 history, donors will need a positive and subsequent negative test. More progressive areas and centers are now accepting those with negative COVID test and high antibody titer levels.
  2. People who have recovered from Covid-19, typically 14 days from their last major symptoms, who are over the age of 17 or 18 and weigh over 110 pounds. 
    1. Note: You may have antibodies even if you were asymptomatic! 

There is growing evidence of post-infection residual impact, which can include (long after a negative test result), chest pain, breathing difficulties, viral-asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome, and others. It is possible to have antibodies, test negative and still exhibit mild symptoms and still (!) be eligible to donate. 

Because most people are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms, the number of recovered patients who are eligible and have enough antibodies could very well match the number hospitalized, if the curve remains flattened and we get people to start donating. 

Is it safe to donate plasma?

Donating plasma is a very safe process and has been used in the medical field for over a century. Bruising is possible and the process can be unpleasant for some – but the majority will have no problems. Make sure to eat and hydrate adequately beforehand! 

Will I lose my immunity?

There is still conflicting evidence around what “immunity” means as it relates to getting infected again. While there is no general consensus yet, evidence does seem to be pointing to short and medium term immunity though no definitive claims can be made at this point. We obviously do HOPE that having antibodies means we can be immune to future strains and exposure to the coronavirus. There is also evidence that many who do not exhibit detectable levels of B Cell (IGG/IGM) antibodies may have fought off infections with T Cell response. 

Do I get paid to donate blood or plasma? 

Many plasma donation centers and research organizations (such as university health systems) will reimburse you for time spent, as the process can take a while.  Some will offer compensation based on the volume of your donation, and a few Covid-19 plasma and research projects are even covering donor transportation costs as well.  It’s possible (using our platform) to discover combinations of ways to contribute and maximise your potential impact.

How can you donate plasma?

Each city and state has their own guidelines, limitations and resources, supply and demands for plasma donations. If you fit the eligibility criteria, you can set up an appointment to get your plasma drawn at a center in your area. 

Plasma Donation itself can take a few hours

Plasmapheresis is the process of removing just the donor’s plasma and replacing other blood contents back into the donor, allowing more plasma to be taken versus a traditional blood donation. We recommend coming prepared with something to do like listening to podcasts, reading, watching a documentary or tv show! 

Where to donate plasma in NYC for recovered COVID-19 patients?

  1. NYC Blood Center – Used as a source of convalescent plasma for many different ICUs and hospitals in the NYC area.
  2. Mt Sinai – launching a new plasma center soon. Also offers great post-covid support if you are still experiencing symptoms.
  3. Discover more personalized options at Covid Blood Drive where we update our database regularly. We match COVID testing, antibody testing, plasma and research opportunities based on your demographic data, zip code and previous tests taken (or not taken). 

We are working to complete our (relatively effortless) workflows to make sure that potential donors can have the most impact and find the best ways to participate that fit their preferences and needs across the USA. We hopefully are expanding into LATAM and Africa next and are looking for fellow volunteers to contribute in these areas!  

We will update this page as more information becomes available regarding antibody testing at a macro-state level. Stay safe, and consider donating today!