WASHINGTON — As a second wave of the pandemic meets a second blood shortage nationwide, the Red Cross in the D.C. region reported a “grave” scarcity of convalescent plasma. It’s the critical liquid part of the blood in COVID-19 survivors, harnessed and used to treat current ICU coronavirus patients.
Blood plasma from coronavirus survivors contains antibodies, which may help trigger immune responses in people severely stricken by the virus.
The Red Cross is now testing all blood, platelet and plasma donations for coronavirus antibodies, so if donors didn’t know they once had the virus, their plasma can help patients in dire need of treatment.
“The need for convalescent plasma supersedes all the needs that we have right now,” Red Cross spokesperson Regina Boothe Bratton said. “Some hospitals have a day’s supply, some have even less than that. And that’s why the need is so crucial right now.”
The Red Cross is imploring people looking for ways to help over the holidays to visit their blood donation website and schedule an appointment.
The organization said it generally experiences a blood shortage between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, but COVID-19 has compounded the problem.
Fewer people are able to visit blood donation sites because of social distancing and elevated pandemic safety requirements, as fewer schools, workplaces and houses of worship host blood drives.
“For one unit of blood you donate, up to three lives are saved, and you’re a hero,” Boothe Bratton said. “We all take a pause during the holidays, but the patients don’t get to take a break. Their lives depend on treatments that have to continue.”