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07 May 2020

Find out more about Convalescent Plasma donation

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If you have recovered from Covid-19, your plasma may contain antibodies which can be used to help others.

Plasma donated by a recovered patient is called Convalescent Plasma. If you are now fit and feeling well, we would like to ask if you might be able to donate some of your plasma to treat patients who are still very ill with Covid-19.

How did you get my details?

Public Health Scotland (formerly Health Protection Scotland) has contacted us (SNBTS, the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service) with information about a number of people including yourself, who have previously tested positive for Covid-19. We have been granted permission to access your contact details by the Public Benefit and Privacy Panel for Health and Social Care. The panel's members have reviewed and approved our application to access your data ensuring that it is in the general public's interests for us to have this data; we transfer and store your data securely and use it only for the purposes intended.

What is Convalescent Plasma?

Recent scientific evidence has shown that transfusing patients with plasma from people who have recovered from Covid-19 can help shorten the illness and make it less severe if given to very ill patients with severe lung disease. This is because recovered patients' plasma may contain antibodies to Covid-19, which can help patients recover. In the past, this approach has been used to treat other newly emerging infections (such as Spanish flu, SARS and Ebola) and is known as passive immunotherapy.

Doctors in the UK would like to offer Convalescent Plasma as a potential treatment to Covid-19 patients. As you may have developed antibodies to Covid-19, we are asking you to consider donation so we at SNBTS can make Covid-19 Convalescent Plasma, which might then be used to treat sick patients.

Are there any other treatments for Covid-19?

No, there are currently no specific licensed treatments for Covid-19. However, doctors in other countries have reported that some Covid-19 patients have benefited when treated with plasma from people who have already recovered from the illness.

What are antibodies?

Antibodies are Y-shaped molecules that are made by your immune system to help fight diseases such as colds and flu and other infections. Antibodies are highest in the first few weeks and months after infection, which is why we are contacting you now.

What exactly is plasma?

Blood contains four main elements:

  • Red blood cells, which carry oxygen around the body
  • White blood cells, which fight infection
  • Platelets, which help stop bleeding, and
  • Plasma, the straw coloured liquid that contains many components such as minerals, hormones and proteins, including antibodies that help fight infection.

The antibodies created in plasma is what is of most use when treating Covid-19.

Who can donate Convalescent Plasma?

At the moment, only donors aged 17-65 who have tested positive for Covid-19, have been symptom free for at least 28 days and meet our usual eligibility criteria, are able to donate Convalescent Plasma.

Have a look at our our eligibility criteria (which are put in place to make sure both donors and patients remain safe) to see if you are able to give blood.

How do I donate Convalescent Plasma?

Once you have recovered and at least 28 days have passed since your symptoms disappeared, you may be able to help others affected by the Covid-19 outbreak by donating your plasma.

There are two methods of donating Convalescent Plasma: through whole blood donation; and through plasma donation. When you give Convalescent Plasma through whole blood, you as a donor give a normal blood donation, but it is processed differently behind the scenes. This means your red blood cells can also be used to help patients, and you will be able to give blood again in three months' time.

However, plasma can also be donated directly using a process called plasmapheresis. This uses a machine which separates the four elements of blood but removes only the plasma, and returns the rest to the donor. Plasmapheresis provides a greater amount of plasma than taking plasma from whole blood, and you may be asked to think about donating Convalescent Plasma in this way.

Tell me about whole blood donation

Because you have recovered from Covid-19, the plasma from your whole blood donation can be taken to treat Covid-19 patients. However, your red blood cells could also be used to treat patients who simply need red blood cell transfusions, for reasons unrelated to Covid-19. If you have given blood before, you will know how easy it is to donate. The whole process takes about an hour, and in that time you will have given a gift that can help save or improve the life of up to two people.

Most people feel fine after donating blood - in fact, you're likely to feel pretty good about yourself. However, if you do feel faint, sore or ill, let us know. Before you go home, we will give you a cold drink and a snack and give you a card with our details so that you can contact us if you feel unwell after you have donated. Please avoid strenuous exercise, hazardous activities, prolonged standing or hot baths for the rest of the day, as these can make you feel faint. You can give blood every three months.

Find out more about what happens when you come to give blood, and reasons you might not be able to give blood at this time online. Alternatively, download our donor information leaflet.

Tell me about plasmapheresis

We plan to ask some donors to give Convalescent Plasma by plasmapheresis. This takes about 90 minutes in total and uses a machine that collects whole blood then separates it into the different parts. In plasmapheresis, we take away the plasma and collect it into a bag and return all the other precious cells back to the donor. The plasma donated can then be split into two units of Covid-19 Convalescent Plasma.

Who will be asked to give Convalescent Plasma by plasmapheresis?

Donors who have the highest levels of antibodies to Covid-19 will be more likely to be asked to give by plasmapheresis. It is also more likely that we will invite male donors to donate by this method, as they tend to higher blood volumes than females and often have bigger veins. If your antibody levels to Covid-19 are particularly high, we might ask you to come back as regularly as you can manage for a couple of months.

What tests will you do on my blood?

All donations are tested for blood type, and for infection with Hepatitis B, C, and E; HIV; HTLV; and Syphilis. We may also test some donations for West Nile Virus. In addition to our standard tests, we will also test to:

  • make sure you do not currently have any active Covid-19 virus in your system
  • measure your current Covid-19 antibody levels.
  • look for antibodies to white blood cells in female Convalescent Plasma donors, which
    may cause transfusion reactions in patients. These are more common in women who
    have been pregnant in the past, and may mean we need to take blood samples from
    your other arm.

Do you have a test for Covid-19 antibodies?

No. Scientists across the world are working hard to develop tests that will detect the immune response to Covid-19 by screening for antibodies, and to measure the amount of antibodies blood donations contain. SNBTS are working hard to evaluate these new tests and hope to have tests in place very soon.

What happens to my donation?

If you have donated whole blood, the donation will be returned to our laboratory to be tested and made into a unit of red cells and a unit of Convalescent Plasma. The unit of plasma will be frozen until it is used. Around 300 ml of plasma (just over half a pint) can be collected this way.

If you have donated by plasmapheresis, the donation is returned to the lab to be tested and made into two units of Convalescent Plasma. The two units of plasma will be frozen until it is used. Around 600 ml of plasma (just over a pint) can be collected this way.

Do I have to donate?

No, Convalescent Plasma donation is an entirely voluntary procedure and it is your choice whether or not you donate. If you have received this leaflet and do not want to donate, please phone us at 0345 90 90 999 or email us at nss.snbtsconvalescentplasmaenquiries@nhs.net to let us know you do not want to donate. If we do not hear from you, we will not contact you again.

What will you do with my information?

As most Convalescent Plasma that we collect is intended for use in clinical trials, we will keep patient information provided by Public Health Scotland for at least 15 years after completion or discontinuation of these trials. NHS National Services Scotland controls information held by the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service. We collect, store and use your information in line with our Data Protection Policy.

Where can I donate?

You will be able to donate blood at one of our donor centres but in coming months you will be able to donate at our community collection session. Plasmapheresis can be donated in either a donor centre or one of our hospital clinics.

Will I definitely be able to give Convalescent Plasma?

No, the usual eligibility criteria still apply - if your haemoglobin is too low, for example, you won't be able to donate, or if you've recently had a tattoo, or if you take certain types of medications etc. Have a look at our Can I give blood? pages for an overview.

I believe I meet the criteria and I’d like to give blood to help research into treatment of Covid-19. How can I arrange this?

Unfortunately, our current tests cannot prove whether you have had Covid-19 or not, so we are currently only taking Convalescent Plasma donations from donors who have had a positive Covid-19 test result. This will change when tests that detect Covid-19 antibodies become available.

I am already a blood donor. What do I do?

If you are a regular blood donor, please contact us to arrange a blood donation on 0345 90 90 999 and leave a message or contact us by email nss.snbtsconvalescentplasmaenquiries@nhs.net and let us know that you’ve recovered from Covid-19 and are interested in donating Convalescent Plasma. Once we’ve confirmed your diagnosis, a member of our team will contact you to ensure you are well and arrange an appointment. We may ask you to attend a donor centre rather than your usual community session.

I’d like to become a donor. What do I do?

If you are a first time donor, please contact us on 0345 90 90 999 and leave a message or via email nss.snbtsconvalescentplasmaenquiries@nhs.net and let us know you've recovered from Covid-19 are interested in donating Convalescent Plasma. Once we've confirmed your diagnosis, a member of our team will contact you to ensure there are no obvious reasons that you should not donate and we will arrange an appointment.

What if I change my mind or something changes and I am no longer eligible/able to donate blood?

That’s no problem. Please contact us on 0345 90 90 999 and leave a message or email us at nss.snbtsconvalescentplasmaenquiries@nhs.net and we will cancel or rearrange your appointment. Please let us know if you do not want us to make any further contact and we will update our database accordingly. As most Convalescent Plasma we collect is intended for use in clinical trials, we will retain patient information provided by PHS for at least 15 years after completion or discontinuation of these trials.

Will my donation definitely be taken when I come to my appointment?

When you attend your donation session, we will review your health and do a fingerprick test to check your haemoglobin level on the day you come to donate, to make sure it is still safe for you to do so. Your donation will not be taken if you no longer meet the safety criteria on the day of donation. If possible, we will take steps to rearrange your appointment to give you the chance to donate.

Will the other donors know I've had Covid-19?

No. Your medical records are private, and will be treated in confidence in exactly the same way as they are any other time you come to give blood. As far as other donors are concerned, you will simply be another blood donor.

Will the person receiving my transfusion or the hospital team treating the patient be able to identify me?

No, all donations are anonymised. Neither the staff treating patients nor the patients themselves can identify the donor from the units of blood or plasma hung at the bedside.

Current blood stock levels across Scotland Sunday 31 May

We aim to retain 6 days of stocks at any time in order to meet the requirements of patients in Scotland.

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