SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, blood and plasma collection centers are seeking donations from anyone who is eligible.
The Greenville, South Carolina-based Blood Connection opened up a pop-up location in Savannah about a month ago in hopes of attracting donors in the Coastal Empire.
“When you have certain eligibility requirements like plasma has, it can be hard to get the amount of that in when you need it, and so we’re seeing that as plasma units come in, they’re going right back out,” said Allie Van Dyke, partnerships and media coordinator for the Blood Connection.
The independently managed nonprofit community blood center operates 12 centers across North and South Carolina.
“Our goal is to have a healthy [plasma] stockpile, and we’re only going to get that if people know what to do when they test positive for the antibodies or for COVID-19,” Van Dyke said.
Open seven days a week, the temporary Savannah office is located in the Victory Square Shopping Center off Victory Drive, near Dollar Tree and Staples.
“We’re trying to make sure we build our donor base in Savannah, and then we will find a permanent location,” Van Dyke said.
“In the past few months, we’ve seen the demand for [plasma] from our local hospitals triple, and that’s really the same thing that other blood centers have been seeing across the nation,” Van Dyke said.
She notes that while the demand for convalescent plasma has skyrocketed, supplies are running low, which means collection centers face an urgent need.
The high-demand convalescent plasma has shown to be an effective and potentially life-saving treatment for COVID-19 infections.
Last August, the Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for convalescent plasma to be utilized for treating hospitalized coronavirus patients.
“Doctors have been seeing this work really well,” Van Dyke said.
“It helps somebody who’s in the hospital recovering from COVID-19, it gives their immune system a little bit of a boost to get ahead of the virus that is rapidly going through their body,” she said, adding, “it’ll help them walk out of the hospital to live their lives and spend time with their family.”
Amid the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, there’s a new challenge for collection centers. The FDA has recommended that anyone who has received their shots should not donate convalescent plasma.
“The good thing is that they can still donate anything else, so they can donate whole-blood platelets or double-red cells, which is basically just a more concentrated whole-blood donation,” Van Dyke shared.
“They can donate everything else, just not convalescent plasma, because it’s going to a COVID-19 patient and the research just needs to be ongoing for that still,” she said.
The Blood Connection is seeking convalescent plasma donations from people who have had COVID-19 and have been symptom-free for 14 days before donating.
“If you’ve recovered and you have a positive test, you have documentation of it, or you have tested positive for the COVID-19 antibodies, we would love for you to come in and donate plasma,” Van Dyke said.
The plasma donation process typically takes between 30 minutes to an hour.
“Basically, it’s a single needle stick, you’re sitting next to a large machine that’s filtering out your plasma and then giving you the rest of your blood back,” Van Dyke said.
She adds that people who have not been infected with COVID-19 are still encouraged to stop by the Savannah pop-up location and donate blood.
“We’re still doing free COVID-19 antibody testing, so if you’re curious about that, you can come in, you can donate blood and then you can get an antibody test,” Van Dyke said.
“If you’re positive, you can come back and donate plasma, and that’ll be your proof of that,” she said, adding, “If you’re negative, you’ll obviously know that, and then you can continue to donate blood with us.”
Those who are interested in making blood or plasma donations can do so at the Blood Connection’s website by visiting this link, or by calling 864-751-1168. The center also accepts walk-ins.