Thousands of COVID-19 recoveries in Central Texas, only about 250 people have donated plasma


AUSTIN (KXAN) — When it comes to treating sick, hospitalized COVID-19 patients, Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott says more convalescent plasma donations are needed in Central Texas.

“The early evidence is that it’s helping. It’s decreasing hospital stays,” he said of the treatment in a briefing with Travis County Commissioners Tuesday.

“We certainly don’t have enough convalescent plasma right now to give it as early or in the numbers that the clinicians would like to give it,” Escott continued. “So we do need more help.”

While more than 21,000 COVID-19 patients have been listed as recovered in Travis County, We Are Blood Vice President of Community Engagement Nick Canedo says only about 1,000 of those patients have shown interest in donating plasma. Of those who’ve shown interest, only about 250 have successfully donated, Canedo says.

“We have seen a lower number of donors than we really need to see to be able to treat the number of patients we have in Central Texas,” Canedo said, adding that the non-profit blood bank provides plasma for transfusions to dozens of medical facilities in the area.

Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty says he would like to incentivize plasma donations from those who have recovered from COVID-19.

“Every one of those people that had it, you know, you’ve got something very, very beneficial for us to get people out of the hospitals.” Daugherty said.

“If we just have to pay somebody, then, you know, as far as I’m concerned with all these dollars that flow to people for COVID stuff, I mean, let’s use those dollars to do that,” he said to Dr. Escott during Tuesday’s Commissioners Court meeting.

However, We Are Blood says regulations for donating plasma may not allow for that type of creative solution in the short-term. Plasma donated for money can generally only be used for lab or pharmaceutical research, not for transfusions in actual patients, Canedo says.

“The concern with paid donations being used to treat patients is that there might be a safety concern around the honesty of answers given during a pre health screening before the donation takes place when an individual has a financial incentive,” Canedo said.

Canedo says that’s why right now, We Are Blood is relying on people stepping up to help purely out of concern for others fighting the virus.

The non-profit is focusing outreach efforts in English and Spanish to get the word out about its need for convalescent plasma donors.

To donate, a person must be able to provide a positive nasal swab result or an FDA approved antibody test result proving he or she had the virus. That person then must be free of symptoms for at least 14 days before donating.

For more information on how to donate, visit We Are Blood’s website.

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