Convalescent plasma COVID-19 donations on the rise

Professor Piotr Radziwon, the national consultant on clinical transfusiology and head of the Regional Blood Donation and Transfusion Medicine Centre (RCKiK) in Białystok, northeastern Poland, who coordinates the marking of antibodies in the plasma of COVID-19 convalescents, has said that the interest in donating COVID-19 convalescent plasma in order to help other infected is on the rise.

According to estimates, so far there have been 5,200 plasma donations made by people who recovered from COVID-19 in Poland. As many as 9,500 plasma units were sampled during those donations. However, a person ill with COVID-19 is not always administered just one unit of convalescent plasma.

In Poland, it is the RCKiK in Białystok that coordinates the marking of antibodies in the convalescent plasma from all over the country. What the centre does in detail, is check whether the given plasma has a sufficient number of antibodies and if it can be used for treatment.

The interest in plasma donation has been soaring significantly as many people and institutions promulgate appeals for donating this valuable liquid.

“We have clearly noticed a slew of interest. We had to launch additional helplines as one was too little because the interest is truly remarkable,” Professor Radziwon said, adding that plasma was being continuously provided for COVID-19 treatment.

“No one is kept waiting for plasma. Indeed, our reserves are not great but they last for a day, two or three at the least. We proceed calmly and know plasma will not run out if nothing unusual happens,” he said.

Professor Radziwon stressed that the talks held by the centre’s employees and convalescents on the helpline were long because a lot of matters needed to be specified before plasma could be donated. Nevertheless, the scientist added, the conversations were uplifting because convalescents wanted to help the ill.

Who can be treated with plasma?

Professor Radziwon felt that the matter of whom the convalescent plasma therapy was dedicated was subject for a broader social education. He stressed that the method has not been fully legitimised but it was used on the basis of treatment results observed by doctors.

“It is worth telling to especially those whose close ones are bedridden with COVID-19 and heard that plasma can be efficient and who firmly demand this treatment, that plasma must be administered at the right phase of this disease. If a person has already been intubated, is in a severe condition, experiences multiorgan damage or cytokine storm, or is in the third or fourth stage of the disease, this is not the time for us to expect plasma to be very effective. That is because, at this moment, the problem is not the reproduction of the virus but the damage it has already done. Plasma should be administered earlier, at the second stage, in line with the recommendation of an infectious diseases doctor,” the professor explained.

In order to improve the plasma acquisition processes, the dedicated equipment is soon to be upgraded with separators used to divide plasma during blood donation. Such gear will be sent especially to terrain blood donation centres that did not have this type of equipment.

Professor Radziwon said that the lack of separators suggested that people willing to donate plasma had had to travel to a city where such a separator could be found. He added that such blood donation stations had applied for the equipment upgrade to the Health Ministry and that such equipment would be ready in a matter of days.