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Back in December, I came down with a very mild case of COVID and a positive test.  So, this week I took some time to visit the LifeServe Blood Center here in Des Moines. While there I had the opportunity to discuss with the CEO Stacy Sime about Iowa’s unique COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma program. She also provided me with the following information to share with you.

At this time the State of Iowa is the only state that is using COVID-19 antibodies to track the pandemic. The use of healthy blood donors has helped the state public health department to understand past infection rates of individuals that were likely not seriously ill, and may have gone undetected. Iowa began COVID-19 antibody testing in August of 2020, and at that time 2.1% of healthy blood donors had antibodies to COVID-19.

In January 2021 21.2% of healthy blood donors have antibodies to COVID-19. It has been found that infection rates in donors age 16-24 are significantly higher. Back in August, 7.1% of healthy blood donors age 16-24 had antibodies to COVID-19.  In January 2021, 31.5% of healthy blood donors age 16-24 had antibodies to COVID-19. Iowa’s antibody testing program has helped ensure that Iowan’s in need have access to COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma.

The plasma is collected from individuals who have antibodies to COVID-19. It is then transfused to hospitalized patients with more severe cases of COVID-19 to help the patient’s immune system to fight off the virus. Iowa currently has three blood centers in Iowa that are collecting COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma: DeGowin Blood Center in Iowa City as well as Mississippi Valley Blood Center and LifeServe Blood Center.

As the pandemic infection rates in Iowa have improved in the months of December and January, the Iowa Blood Centers are playing a major role in ensuring patients across the United States have access to COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma.

To donate COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma, a donor should contact the blood center that serves their local hospital. In order to qualify to be a convalescent plasma, you must be more than 28 days recovered from COVID-19. Typically, the first donation is a regular blood donation. This allows the blood center to confirm that your COVID-19 antibodies are high enough. From your first donation one dose of COVID-19 Plasma is made. You can then return after they determine your antibodies are good, to donate four doses of plasma per donation.

Donors can then continue to donate until your antibody level is too low. On average, that takes 4-6 months from when you recovered from COVID-19. As with many things in regards to COVID-19 it affects different people differently and it has been found that not everyone who has had COVID-19 has developed antibodies.

Last week, more than 25,000 of convalescent plasma doses were transfused to severely ill patients. Nationally COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma is in alarmingly low supply. If you have tested positive, or believe that you may have had COVID-19. I personally would like to encourage you to go to your local blood center and find out if you have the antibodies to donate.

If you would like more information regarding convalescent plasma, or if you are interested in other issues here at the Capitol you can reach me at [email protected]

Author: Lee Hein