HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – A vaccine for COVID-19 could be nearly a year away. In the meantime, some doctors are exploring alternative treatments for the virus. Some health professionals believe recovered COVID-19 patients could play a big role in slowing the virus down.
Doctors believe some recovered COVID-19 patients will form antibodies that could help others struggling to fight the virus improve. The treatment stems from convalescent plasma.
Dr. Karen Landers with the Alabama Department of Public Health said the process differs from a standard plasma donation.
“Convalescent plasma really supplies antibodies to the person that has the illness. Antibodies are a way to fight off infection if you will,” she explained. “So its really allowing the person to receive antibodies from a recently infected person.”
The American Red Cross said it checks everyone who has met the criteria to donate blood for the COVID-19 antibodies as of recent. Even if they have not been tested for COVID-19.
However, those looking to donate convalescent plasma must have tested positive for COVID-19 and recovered. They are then required to fill out online forms to donate and wait for a call back from the Red Cross.
But a UAB doctor said not everyone who has recovered from the virus will be able to help.
“Not everybody forms the antibodies. Just because they recovered, thankfully, that doesn’t mean that they are immune or they’ve formed the antibodies that would help somebody else to improve,” said Dr. Marisa Marques, Medical Director of Transfusion Services with UAB Hospital.
Marques also noted recovered patients who have had any sort of recent transfusion cannot donate blood or plasma for 12 months.
The Red Cross said it has contracts with area hospitals and convalescent plasma is made available on a need by need basis.
Landers also mentioned a person who wants to donate convalescent plasma must be asymptomatic for at least two weeks prior to being screened for a donation.
If you’ve recovered from COVID-19 and want to know how you can donate your convalescent plasma, visit the Red Cross here.