EDITORIAL: In defense

Recovered COVID patients sought for plasma donation

Rio Grande Valley residents traditionally have responded to their neighbors in need, helping address the effects of storms, floods and other crises.

Many local individuals and organizations at this time are giving time, food and other resources to help those who have lost their health, jobs or family members to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Local officials and medical professionals now are asking for help from a specific group of Valley residents: recovered COVID-19 patients.

They are asked to consider donating plasma that will be used to treat current patients. It is part of a nationwide effort that has shown promise in fighting the disease. This disease isn’t the first coronavirus to appear in our population. However, it isn’t like previous strains, for which treatments and vaccines were developed in time to control it before too many people became infected. COVID-19 hasn’t responded to any traditional treatment, and researchers are still working to develop, or discover, a vaccine for this particular strain.

Vaccines generally spur the body to create defenses against diseases. These special cells, or antibodies, tend to be specific for each disease, which is why vaccinations are specific as well.

A body creates antibodies to fight coronaviruses as well, so they should be in the blood of people who have recovered from this disease. The severity of the pandemic has led the Food and Drug Administration to waive some of the ordinary testing requirements for treatment, and is allowing medical professionals to take blood plasma from recovered patients and inject them into current patients, hoping the antibodies will help them. Initial tests have shown promise at this early stage.

Former COVID-19 patients, therefore, are asked to consider donating plasma for the test. Currently there are about 5,000 recovered patients in Hidalgo County, almost 3,000 in Cameron County, 500 in Starr County and about 150 in Willacy County, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

The donors they officials are seeking have had COVID-19 and recovered, with no symptoms for at least four weeks.

Donating plasma is much like donating whole blood and the screening process is similar. Blood is taken from the donor and run through a centrifuge to separate the plasma from the heavier red blood cells. The red cells are returned to the donor’s body, with a saline solution that replaces the plasma.

The process takes about 90 minutes.

Because unused parts of the blood are returned to the donor, a person normally can donate plasma every four days.

One donation can help treat three or four people.

All Valley hospitals are participating in the project, which is led by the Mayo Clinic and locally by Doctor’s Hospital at Renaissance.

A plasma drive was held Tuesday in Brownsville and another is scheduled July 28 at the Courtyard by Marriott hotel.

People who qualify for donations and wish to participate can schedule appointments by calling (956) 215-3166 or 362-2390 in Cameron County, 215-3166 or (504) 444-2318 in Hidalgo County.