Northside Hospital and Atlanta Blood Services are seeking plasma donations from recovered COVID-19 patients to use in an experimental treatment amid a record number of pandemic hospitalizations.

The treatment, called convalescent plasma, involves injecting the blood plasma of a recovered patient into a currently infected patient. The plasma of a recovered patient may contain antibodies that successfully fought the coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 disease, and the idea is that sharing those antibodies will help a currently sick patient recover faster.

Atlanta Blood Services saw 32 new donors in the past week and distributed 57 units of convalescent plasma to patients at the Sandy Springs hospital, and another 22 units are in inventory or pending testing. But the demand remains high.

“With the number of hospitalizations continuing to rise, the urgent need for convalescent plasma continues,” said hospital spokesperson Katherine Watson.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization for convalescent plasma in August. Patients no longer needed to enroll in a research trial, which allowed easier access to the treatment.

“In support of the FDA’s recommendations, the Northside Hospital study remains open,” said Carrie Cox, executive director of Atlanta Blood Services.

Research shows that treatment with convalescent plasma is most effective when given early and when there is a high antibody level, Cox said. The local challenge is that the inventory has been depleted and units being collected have lower antibody levels, which means more plasma donations per treatment are needed to raise the level of COVID-19 antibodies present.

“We need patients who have recently recovered from COVID in the past 14 to 60 days to donate plasma,” Cox said. “This will help us to maintain optimal inventory levels so that plasma can reach a patient within hours.”

Patients who were treated other than with convalescent plasma may still be eligible to donate. After receiving a COVID-19 vaccine you are not eligible to donate plasma, but you can still donate platelets.

Qualified plasma donors must meet the following criteria:

  • Be healthy.
  • Be over the age of 18.
  • Have previously tested positive for COVID-19 or had a positive COVID-19 antibody test.
  • Have been symptom free for at least 14 days.
  • Successfully screen as a blood donor per FDA blood donation guidelines.

Anyone who wants to schedule a donation appointment or to learn more about donating plasma can call 404-477-1299 or visit atlantabloodservices.com.

Bob Pepalis

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Reporter Newspapers.