US officials and doctors Thursday encouraged Americans that recovered from the coronavirus to donate plasma after recent reports showed that these antibodies could help infected patients.
President Donald Trump said that $48 million was given to the Mayo Clinic to support their expanded access program for plasma, and more money is being given to the Red Cross and blood collection units to collect 360,000 units of this plasma.
“If you’ve had the virus, if you donate [blood], it would be a terrific thing,” Trump said during a roundtable.
Nearly 50,00 patients have been treated with this plasma, according to Trump. The president said that “roughly 2 million Americans have recovered” from the virus.
Trump visited a patient who recovered from the coronavirus disease, as the patient donated plasma to the Red Cross.
Happening now: @realDonaldTrump & Dr. Fauci watch a recovered COVID patient donate plasma at the @RedCross. People who have safely recovered from COVID19 could be a KEY to helping treat their fellow Americans! https://t.co/h8G3ETy0ZL https://t.co/NxjWZSQCkl— Alyssa Farah (@Alyssafarah) July 30, 2020
According to the US government’s coronavirus plasma treatment website, there are 79,059 patients for the program and 50,837 have been infused so far.
Otherwise known as convalescent plasma, it has been used on more than 30 patients so far in a local Ohio town, according to Dr. Nihad Botrous, the medical director at Aultman Hospital.
Botrous, also the chairman of critical care services, told Al Arabiya English that using convalescent plasma is nothing new. “It was used after the Spanish Flu broke out in 1918 and then again for SARS in 2003. So we said, let’s try it and so far we have seen some positive results,” he said in a phone call.
One of the positive factors of such a treatment is that it’s quick and readily available as long as there are recovered patients. “It takes a long time to develop medicine or vaccine, test it and then give it to people. We were in a crisis mode and needed something quick,” Botrous said.
But Botrous said he expects the number of cases to continue rising and warned that face-to-face interaction was the most dangerous in transmitting the disease.
Botrous also warned that the formal publication of the final results with definitive answers would be released after a one-year study. “However, we have observations on positive results based on day-to-day observations,” he said.
The convalescent plasma treatment is also leading to a noticeable decrease in time for patients requiring mechanical ventilation.
“We are comparing to pre-convalescent plasma treatment here [in our hospital] or elsewhere,” Botrous said. “The impression we think is that it is helping, but the final results will help identify optimal candidates for this therapy and it seems that early intervention is better.”
Earlier in the day, alongside Trump, the government’s top disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said that when a vaccine was ready, it would be distributed to populations “that need it most.” A group of officials and doctors has been put together to “make sure there is fair distribution, properly,” Fauci said.