Few things these days are as welcome as new tools in the fight against COVID-19 and last week the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) changed the way COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma (CCP) can be used. This specialized type of transfusion is now approved for clinic patients with weakened immune systems to prevent worsening of their condition. Hallelujah! We can do more to help the most medically vulnerable avoid hospitalizations, complications, and worries. To capture this benefit, however, a fresh group of blood donor heroes is urgently needed in January to restock the improved CCP units that will target recent variants, like omicron.
Since repeated pandemic surges have us trapped in an epidemiologic Groundhog Day of recycled warnings, discussions, behaviors, etc., a refresher on plasma may help. Plasma is the liquid portion of blood containing immune proteins or antibodies. It can be drawn from recovered patients and then given to boost the anti-viral defenses of recently infected individuals. Convalescent plasma has been around for over 100 hundred years and it still has use smacking down viruses and other infections.
Encouragingly, a just published study of more than 1,200 cases showed that outpatients who received CCP were hospitalized at a rate half (46%) of that experienced by the control group not receiving the treatment. That can be a huge lightening of the care burden on overwhelmed nurses, doctors and other hospital staff. It’s also big league in reducing stress on patients and
families. This reworked approach to CCP care is very timely, since the FDA announced in December that two of the three monoclonal antibody drugs widely prescribed to combat early disease are mostly useless against omicron. Of absolutely no surprise given our pandemic circus, there is now a severe shortage of the one, effective monoclonal option. One might say then, “When a monoclonal door closed, a CCP window opened.”
Because the FDA also just adjusted the rules for producing CCP, essentially all of America’s older inventory became unusable. Blood collectors must quickly build back the CCP safety net from scratch. To do so, we are looking for amazingly fantastic donors who have proof of symptomatic COVID-19 within the last six months and are also more than ten days out from full recovery. COVID-19 vaccination status does NOT matter, but there is an age minimum of 18 years. To be clear, it is the “amazingly fantastic donors” who are key ingredient for producing these goodly goods.
Also, to qualify, CCP donors must show high levels of anti-COVID-19 antibodies (anti CV19) in their blood. Fortunately, the Oklahoma Blood Institute (OBI) is doing this type of testing for free on all donations in January. Therefore, by simply giving blood this month with OBI, you will be automatically screened in the lab to see if you additionally hit the mark as a potential CCP hero. If you are a candidate, we will contact you to answer a few extra questions and, hopefully, get your “new and improved” unit delivered to a patient battling COVID-19. While it is pure coincidence that OBI happens to be testing for anti CV-19 this month, I am sure I feel a draft from that CCP window that Someone lifted open.
As our community fights yet another round against this deadly virus, I urge you to answer our call . Pass along the immune strength from your recovery to heal a neighbor whose weakened defenses put him or her at risk. Let’s honor to all those lost over the last two years by sharing our humanity and our blood to overcome this virus and reduce its devasting toll. Give blood now and be a part of someone else’s miraculous victory. In the end, you can help keep that CCP window propped open. Please!