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Urgent appeal for COVID-19 plasma donations now to help trial during any second wave

3 August 2020

NHS Blood and Transplant is now urgently appealing for people to donate convalescent plasma.

NHSBT needs as many donors as possible to come forward now from the first wave of infections to enable as many donations as possible to be taken now.

More than 13,000 donations have been made so far. However the number of new infections has declined since the spring, meaning fewer people are eligible to donate.

In the past month, we have seen a nearly 50% reduction in the number of appointments we book in a week. (1)

The decline in infections is welcome but it has meant every potential donor is even more valuable. A successful trial will enable convalescent plasma to be an additional line of protection during any second wave.

Plasma from people who have recovered from COVID-19 can be transfused into people who are still unwell and struggling to develop their own immune response. The plasma contains neutralising antibodies which could stop the virus spreading.

Although there is evidence of patient benefit, the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 convalescent plasma transfusions needs to be confirmed by a full, randomised clinical trial. The results are expected later this year although dates will depend on the progress of the pandemic.

NHS Blood and Transplant’s Clinical Trials Unit is collaborating with the RECOVERY and REMAP-CAP platform trials. Approximately 130 people have received transfusions so far. Donated plasma is frozen and can be used up to three years later.

Gail Miflin, Chief Medical Officer, NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “We need people to offer to donate now so we are ready to potentially provide an additional line of protection during any second wave.

“The number of new infections has declined greatly which is fantastic news. Fewer people are getting COVID-19. This does mean we need to work harder to recruit new donors and we urgently need as many people as possible who have recovered to donate, to help us make as much progress as possible now.

“We especially need men who have recovered to donate because they have higher antibody levels. Donating plasma is safe and easy and you could save lives.”

Making a difference

Comedian Hal Cruttenden, who has appeared on shows including Have I Got News For You, Bake Off: Extra Slice, and Live at the Apollo, has donated convalescent plasma twice, after spending 10 days ill with the coronavirus.

He overcame a nervousness about needles to donate and is supporting the appeal for people, especially men, to donate.

Hal said: “A lot of people feel powerless and it’s nice to be able to do something that other people can benefit from. And the truth is, it’s an easy way to feel good about yourself because you are not doing anything too hard - plus they give you biscuits. It’s a place for a tubby middle man to give something back and it’s lovely to think you will make a difference.”

Peter Horby, Professor of Emerging Infectious Diseases and Global Health in the Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford, and Chief Investigator for the RECOVERY trial, said: “For people unlucky enough to get seriously ill with COVID, the risk of death is alarmingly high. We desperately need better treatments and convalescent plasma holds real promise.

“We are testing convalescent plasma in clinical trials but we need a constant supply so I urge anyone who can to come forward, donate, and help us find a new treatment.”

COVID-19 convalescent plasma is being collected at NHSBT’s 23 donor centres around the country, and several pop-up donor centres. London, Greater Manchester and Birmingham are priority areas for donation.

Donation takes about 45 minutes. Your body usually replaces the plasma you’ve donated in 24-48 hours. Your body also quickly replaces the antibodies. People can donate plasma as often as every two weeks.

If you’ve had coronavirus, please offer to donate by calling or 0300 123 23 23 or visiting our dedicated website.

Notes

  1. During the WC 15/6 we booked over 4,000 appointments and during w/c 20/7, we booked around 2,200.