President Donald Trump and public health officials on Thursday encouraged Americans who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate their convalescent blood plasma to help combat the disease.
“More than 2 million Americans have recovered from the virus, and today we’re asking them to visit Coronavirus.gov and volunteer to donate plasma. We need plasma,” Trump said at a press conference on the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus.
“It’s something that’s been very effective, and we need plasma from those that were infected and successfully recovered, as most people do. Most people do,” he added.
Plasma-based treatment has the potential to give antibodies to patients affected by the virus and is “potentially game changing,” according to a statement from the White House. The statement noted that donors can give plasma multiple times.
Convalescent plasma has become the first widely available antibody-based therapy for the CCP virus, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services continues to evaluate the efficacy of the treatment.
A large study of the first 20,000 adults who were hospitalized with severe life-threatening COVID-19 and have received transfusions of convalescent plasma found the investigative therapy to be safe. The study which was part of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) national Expanded Access Program, was reported in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
“We’re encouraged by the data; we’ve seen that this is a safe treatment. And we’re encouraged by the early promising data that we’ve seen. And as the President mentioned, we’re studying these data to determine, ultimately, the safety and efficacy of this product,” Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Stephen Hahn said during a roundtable on donating plasma.
“In the meantime, we know that doctors are writing these orders, that patients who are hospitalized need this, and so the call to action to donate is so important,” he added. “And even if, at the end of the day, convalescent plasma doesn’t turn out to be the treatment we think it might be, remember that your donations still count with the American Blood Centers and the American Red Cross. They can truly save lives.”
Trump visited the American Red Cross National Headquarters in Washington and briefly witnessed a recovered COVID-19 patient donating plasma.
The FDA in April called on recovered Americans to donate convalescent plasma, which it called “an antibody-rich product made from blood” donated by those who have recovered from COVID-19. It added that studies suggested that convalescent plasma has the potential to lessen the severity or shorten the length of illness from the virus.
HHS Secretary Alex Azar at the roundtable expressed gratitude toward those that have stepped up to donate, noting that more than 48,000 COVID-19 patients have received convalescent plasma.
“You are literally saving lives. And we need hundreds of thousands more to please come forward,” Azar said. “If you’ve been infected and recovered, please go to Coronavirus.gov and—or reach out to your American Red Cross outlet or your local blood bank, and please be a donor.”
Surgeon General Jerome Adams at the roundtable said that the average age of donation of blood and plasma is over 60.
“To the young people out there: We’ve got some work to do. The seniors are showing us up. We need everyone to do their part, because we’re all in this together,” Adams said.
Trump acknowledged that more than 150,000 Americans have died from the CCP virus.
“America grieves for all of the 150,000 Americans who had their lives taken by this horrible, invisible enemy. We mourn their loss, as a nation; we mourn their loss, as people that love one another,” he said. “we’re working very hard to not only contain this horrible event, this horrible plague, but also to come up with therapeutics and vaccines.”
The efforts toward blood plasma therapy come as part of Operation Warp Speed, the administration’s efforts to quickly develop safe and effective vaccines and therapeutics to combat the CCP virus.
Most recently, the administration secured more than 90 percent of the world’s supply of the antiviral drug remdesivir, Trump said. This equates to 650,000 courses of the drug, which has been shown to decrease mortality and speed up recovery time, according to a White House statement.
The administration has also approved the use of dexamethasone, a steroid that Trump said has shown success “even in patients at more advanced stages of the disease.”