Red Cross officials say Alabama is in critical need of convalescent plasma

Plasma shortage headed into 2021

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - With a record number of people in the hospital for COVID-19, experts say the need for convalescent plasma is even greater than before.

“We go hand in hand and when hospitals need, then we need,” Red Cross spokesperson Annette Rowland said.

Rowland said the state is in desperate need of convalescent plasma donations from people who have recovered from COVID-19.

“Between September and November, there was a 250% increase in the demand for convalescent plasma and how much we actually distributed,” Rowland said.

Rowland said the organization has already distributed 72,000 units. She said right now, they only have enough to fill hospital orders about 24 to 48 hours in advance.

“The hospitalizations are increasing and 24 to 48 hours may seem like a lot, but it’s not when you talk about people who are seriously ill and this could potentially help them,” Rowland said. “We have to be able to get that to the people when they need it.”

She said the plasma has a shelf life of over one one year if its frozen, but right now all the donations are going straight to the hospital. Rowland said one donation can help up to three people.

“Eligible donors can actually give every seven days for up to three months,” she said.

Rowland said not everyone who has recovered from the virus can donate and that’s one reason why convalescent plasma is in short supply.

“That is part of the problem,” she said. “You do have a lot of people who have been willing and who have donated or have wanted to donate, but then we find out that they didn’t have a verified case. They just presumed or thought that they had COVID, but never actually got a positive test for it and that makes them ineligible.”

She said you also have to be 18 years or older and meet the criteria to donate blood. The organization also requires donors to be fully recovered from the virus. If you don’t know if you are eligible, Rowland said you can still sign up and a representative will ask you questions to determine your eligibility.

Rowland said it’s hard to predict how many donations they need to meet the hospitals demand, but she thinks it could be a while before the need is gone.

“I think we all want 2021 to be COVID free,” she said. “Realistically, I don’t see that happening so this need is definitely an ongoing need.”

Click here to sign up to donate your convalescent plasma.

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