Huntsville doctor says plasma shortage is likely as coronavirus cases continue to rise

Huntsville Hospital's infectious disease specialist said the wait time for plasma has already increased and he anticipates the rise in cases will increase the need for donors.

Posted: Dec 10, 2020 7:10 PM

As coronavirus cases continue to rise around the country, the need for convalescent plasma is increasing.

Plasma treatments have been used since the early days of the pandemic in an effort to give sick patients antibodies from those who have already recovered.

Donors are being asked to give plasma if they have recovered from COVID-19 in an effort to help patients who need it.

Dr. Ali Hassoun, Huntsville Hospital's infectious disease specialist, said that the hospital is currently asking blood banks for 10 to 15 units of plasma per day, sometimes more. Over the past few months, Hassoun said the wait time for those units has only increased.

"So it is very important, especially now, I can tell you with the cases going up significantly, there is going to be, for sure, shortage of convalescent plasma,” Hassoun explained.

Huntsville Hospital has been treating patients with plasma for months. Hassoun said they've found that it's most effective if the plasma has a high level of antibodies and is administered to patients within the first three to seven days of showing symptoms.

"You need to keep in mind, when we give plasma, most of these patients will receive as well steroids as well as remdesivir,” he explained.

The combination of treatments, Hassoun said, seems most effective. Still, he noted that patients who only received the plasma before the other options were available claimed to feel better and recovered.

Now, with cases and hospitalizations hitting record highs, Hassoun said the supply is already getting low.

"I think it's gonna go down, and you know, we used to be able to get the plasma within hours. Now, we are waiting longer to get these, so as the cases gonna keep going up, we're definitely going to have more shortage of it."

With a definite need for continued plasma donations, Hassoun is now encouraging people who’ve recovered to reach out to blood banks to find out if they qualify to donate.

The hospital also hopes to soon have “purified plasma,” which uses multiple antibodies together to fight the virus, which Hassoun said would be even more effective than what is currently being used.

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