Lt. Gen. Dorothy Hogg, Surgeon General, and Chief Master Sgt. G. Steve Cum, Medical Enlisted Force and Enlisted Corps chief, discuss convalescent plasma therapy as part of treatment for COVID-19. (U.S. Air Force video by Air Force Television Pentagon)
WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Patients who have recovered from COVID-19 may hold treatment in their veins that could help others who are critically ill with the respiratory infection.
“The Air Force is participating in a Department of Defense-wide effort to further investigate the benefits of convalescent blood plasma,” said Lt. Gen. Dorothy Hogg, Air Force Surgeon General. “We plan to collect more than 8,000 units of plasma from individuals who have recovered from COVID-19. This is a big job and we need your help.”
Donations will be accepted at 15 Armed Services Blood Program centers across the continental United States, and in Hawaii, Guam and Germany (a complete list of centers accepting donations appears at the end of this article, and is available online).
Patients fully recovered from COVID-19 are the only ones who qualify to be a COVID-19 convalescent plasma (CCP) donor, said Army Col. Audra Taylor, chief of the Armed Services Blood Program. DoD personnel and their families, as well as non-DoD civilians with access to collection facilities on installations, are welcome to donate.
"Our goal as a lifesaving program is to always provide a safe and ample supply of blood products. The need is now," Taylor said. "We are calling for all who are healthy, able and eligible to donate today to help us all stand mission ready and save lives."
Why convalescent plasma is collected
When a person contracts SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, their immune system creates antibodies to fight the virus. These antibodies are found in the plasma, the liquid part of blood, Taylor explained.
Plasma with infection-fighting antibodies is called convalescent plasma, she said. Through the blood-donation process, this plasma is collected from a donor who has recovered from COVID-19 and may be transfused into a sick patient who is still fighting the virus, if they qualify for this type of treatment. This may boost the immune system of the patient and help with the recovery process, Taylor said.
“Early research shows plasma from individuals who have recovered from a (COVID-19) infection contains antibodies that can help patients with severe COVID-19 illness,” Hogg said. “Early results in convalescent plasma therapy have shown great promise.”
Several COVID-19 patients in the Military Health System have received convalescent plasma transfusions as part of their treatment, Taylor said. The treatment, which must be carried out under and approved protocol, is used for those hospitalized and severely ill with the disease.
“The first patient to receive convalescent plasma in the Air Force occurred in the intensive care unit at Keesler Air Force Base (Mississippi) in April of this year,” said Chief Master Sgt. G. Steve Cum, Medical Enlisted Force chief and Enlisted Corps chief. “This patient received plasma from the Armed Services Blood Program and was treated, has fully recovered and has been discharged.”
Donating CCP is the same as a standard platelet or plasma donation, and must meet specific requirements set by the Food and Drug Administration. Donors must be at least 17 years old, weigh at least 110 pounds and be in good health. Women who have ever been pregnant may need additional testing for specific human leukocyte antigen antibodies that may be present in their blood. In addition to these standard requirements, those who have fully recovered from COVID-19 must be symptom-free for at least 14 days. Donors must also produce documented laboratory test results proving they tested positive for the virus, Taylor explained.
"If a donor believes they meet these requirements, they must first contact the local blood donor center before coming in, and if they qualify, set up an appointment," said Army Col. Jason Corley, Army Blood Program director. "Once set up, the donor must bring the required documentation and undergo the standard donation procedure. Final determination will be made by the medical director or designee."
“The process of donating is similar to routine plasma donation and takes just slightly longer than a blood donation,” said Hogg. “We are counting on you to spread the word about this vital program by telling your friends, family and others in our Air Force community about the need for donors.”
“Defeating COVID-19 is an ongoing effort and it will take all of us working together,” Cum said. “The Air Force Medical Service is committed to bringing all we have to fight this virus.”
ASBP Centers Collecting Convalescent Plasma:
Armed Services Blood Bank Center, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland
Naval Medical Center Portsmouth Blood Donor Center, Portsmouth, Virginia
Fort Bragg Blood Donor Center, Fort Bragg, North Carolina
Kendrick Memorial Blood Center, Fort Gordon, Georgia
Sullivan Memorial Blood Center, Fort Benning, Georgia
Blood Donor Center, Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi
Lackland Air Force Base Armed Services Blood Bank Center, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas
Robertson Blood Center, Fort Hood, Texas
Akeroyd Blood Donor Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas
Fort Bliss Blood Donor Center, Fort Bliss, Texas
Naval Medical Center San Diego Blood Donor Center, San Diego, California
Armed Services Blood Bank Center – Pacific Northwest, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington
Tripler AMC Blood Donor Center, Tripler Army Medical Center, Hawaii
Naval Hospital Blood Donor Center, Guam
Armed Services Blood Bank Center Europe, Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany