Blood and plasma donations could save lives

Need for blood donations

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The new year means blood donation sites across our area are looking for more people to give blood – even during a pandemic.

And those who have had COVID-19 may still have antibodies, which can help others recover from the virus.

Both the Red Cross and LifeSouth said they’re seeing an increase in people wanting to donate blood, resolving to start the new year by helping others.

“Especially in this month of January we have seen a record amount of donation appointments being made,” said Regional Communications Director for the Red Cross, Annette Rowland.

“And people scheduling appointments for not only blood donations, but now for convalescent plasma,” Rowland said.

Blood donated at both sites is tested for COVID-19 antibodies, and within a week, donors will learn if they have them.

The antibody screening doesn’t confirm infection or immunity, but those who test positive for antibodies may have a unique opportunity to help those fighting COVID-19.

“So, if somebody does have the antibodies, our corporate office, or somebody from our office here in Birmingham, is going to contact that person,” said Community Development Coordinator for LifeSouth, Blake Lee.

“They’re going to ask if you’d be interested in scheduling a timeframe to come back and actually donate plasma,” Lee explained.

Less said collecting plasma takes about 45 minutes.

The Food and Drug Administration said convalescent plasma has shown positive results in previous disease outbreaks, like H1N1, flu, and Ebola.

It’s still in the investigational stage for treating COVID-19, but experts said convalescent plasma shows promise as an effective treatment.

“One donation of plasma is going to go a very long way and will go to one of the hospitals here within central Alabama, so one donation can save a bunch of lives,” Lee said.

LifeSouth said you can still donate blood if you’ve had a COVID-19 vaccine.

But at this time, the FDA does not recommend that you donate convalescent plasma after getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

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