On Sunday, President Trump announced the FDA is giving emergency use status to convalescent plasma. The treatment has already been used on more than 60,000 patients but now that number will dramatically increase.
Angela Hoyt was the first convalescent plasma donation in the Coachella Valley from a former COVID patient.
“This is one way I could say, okay, let me help somehow, so you don’t feel so helpless,” she said in an interview in April. “It’s a way to help someone in the community, no matter who they are, who wasn’t quite as lucky.”
Hoyt tested positive for COVID-19 in March and donated her plasma in April. Since then, convalescent plasma has caught the eye of the President.
“This is a powerful therapy that transfuses very, very strong antibodies from the blood of recovered patients to help treat patients battling a current infection,” President Trump said on Sunday in his briefing. “It’s had an incredible rate of success.”
“I expect the demand to increase,” Dr. Joe Chaffin, chief medical officer for Lifestream blood bank, said.
Lifestream is the main collector of plasma in the Coachella Valley. The organization provides product to Eisenhower Health and Desert Regional Medical Center.
Both hospitals are utilizing the treatment as a part of the Mayo Clinic study. Desert Regional enrolled 97 patients in the study and ultimately used 81 patients. Eisenhower enrolled 179 patients and 101 patients were transfused.
The Mayo Clinic study’s findings played a large role in the FDA’s decision. Still, Dr. Chaffin said it’s still too early to determine the plasma’s effectiveness.
“You actually cannot say that this product is, as of yet, proven to effective,” Dr. Chaffin said. “There are positive signals, there’s no question about that and all of us are hoping that this will be a wonderful treatment and will do great things for a ton of patients but the reality is the data is too early for us to say that with certainty.”
To get more data, they need more donors, Dr. Chaffin said. Donors like Matt McLeroy who waited on Lifestream’s list for weeks to do his part after contracting the virus.
“For myself, I will continue to donate as long as possible,” McLeroy said.
“We need those folks to contact us and we will get them through as quickly as possible,” Dr. Chaffin said. “We are going to need more of this product.”
For Lifestream donation information visit: https://www.lstream.org/covidplasma/