Local doctor explains how Convalescent Plasma works, and what you could do to help

Posted at 11:43 PM, Aug 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-28 23:43:46-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Plasma was one of the earliest treatments used on COVID patients, and it's still being administered

"Plasma is the liquid portion of the blood,” explains Steven Hahn, Commissioner of the FDA. “That liquid portion contains the natural immunity that someone develops in response to an infection, in this case COVID-19.”

Hahn announced the FDA is issuing emergency use of plasma to treat hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

So here’s how it works —

When you donate plasma, it’s a similar process to donating blood, except that yellow-y liquid part - the plasma - Is separated from the blood. It contains antibodies that are later given to patients through an IV.

The FDA says the benefits of that process currently outweigh the risks.

"This is not the same as approval, but it is an authorization.” Hahn clarified. “It allows us to expand the access to this.”

In West Michigan Metro Hospital has already used it on about 17 of the sickest patients over the last few months.

“…Nonetheless there's a lot of data has shown that kind of lesson plasma has been effective in helping people recover from illnesses.” Dr. Ronald Grifka, Chief Medical Officer at Metro Hospital told FOX 17.

Grifka says Metro is also participating in a nationwide research study, conducted by the Mayo Clinic.

“We’re trying to determine what are the best patients to receive the plasma,” Grifka said. ‘Some of the data suggests that maybe we should get earlier than we are.

Hospitals like Metro have needed various permissions to administer the treatment on COVID patients. The FDA’s green-light could make it easier.

“So far as to use convalescent plasma has required pretty stringent protocol,” Grifka said. “I suspect with FDA approved will be much easier, much quicker for other hospitals to get on board to administer the convalescent plasma. So I expect we'll see more patients who will receive convalescent plasma. Hopefully it's also going to encourage more people to donate people have recovered from COVID-19.

Convalescent plasma is not a new thing - it was first administered during the Spanish Flu during the earlier parts of the last century.