Graham Kilmer

Hospitals Urgently Need Plasma from Recovered COVID-19 Patients

Resources are being stretched thin as healthcare workers battle the latest surge.

By - Nov 11th, 2020 07:21 pm
Versiti Blood Center of Wisconsin. Photo from the City of Milwaukee.

Versiti Blood Center of Wisconsin. Photo from the City of Milwaukee.

The current spike in COVID-19 is pushing medical resources, healthcare systems and public health departments to their very limits.

Versiti Blood Center of Wisconsin issued a call for COVID-19 convalescent plasma donations Wednesday. The blood center said it was an “urgent plea” as it is “struggling to keep up with hospital needs.”

Versiti is a national non-profit organization, headquartered in Milwaukee, dedicated to blood health treatments and research, and organ donation.

This plasma is taken from patients that have recently recovered from COVID-19. Their antibodies can help patients experiencing severe COVID-19 symptoms fight the infection.

In August the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued emergency authorization for the use of convalescent plasma to treat the disease. Based upon the evidence available at the time of the decision, the treatment is believed to be effective in fighting the virus, and the known and potential benefits of the treatment outweigh the risks.

Hospital systems have already been battling COVID-19 for eight months. And as the disease continues to surge, the pressure on these systems continues to grow. Recently, Advocate Aurora health discontinued its walk-up and drive-thru community testing efforts, saying they were pulling resources from testing and putting them towards caring for COVID-19 patients.

In its statement, Versiti said it has seen the demand for COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma double over the past four weeks and that demand is expected to increase as the surge continues. If the trend continues, the organization will eventually reach a point where it can’t fill all the orders for plasma that it receives, said Dr. Dan Waxman, vice president of transfusion medicine and senior medical officer at Versiti.

The demand for the plasma treatment is outstripping donations at a rate of three to one, Versiti said. “We are facing a critical need,” Waxman said. The organization only has enough plasma on hand to last another four days.

In its statement, the organization pleaded with members of the public to donate plasma if they have recently recovered from COVID-19. In order to donate, you must be symptom free for 14 days. You can donate up to 12 times, Versiti said.

Across the state cases, hospitalizations and deaths are all on the rise. On Tuesday, Wisconsin saw the most cases, hospitalizations and deaths it has seen in a single day during the entire pandemic.

Local officials have repeatedly warned that the current rate of disease is unsustainable. Public health officers are triaging contact tracing and disease investigation because the volume is too much to contend with. If the surge doesn’t abate, local hospitals will eventually hit a point where they don’t have enough resources to care for all the new patients.

In an address Tuesday night, after the record setting day, Gov. Tony Evers begged Wisconsin residents to stay home the way they did in the spring, as nothing else is currently tamping down the  spread of COVID-19.

For those interested in donating COVID-19 convalescent plasma visit versiti.org/covid19plasma for more information.

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