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Vaccinated plasma donors can save hundreds of lives, earn hundreds of dollars

Published: Apr. 1, 2021 at 11:18 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Fact or fiction: Since there’s more medicine available to treat COVID-19, the need for plasma donations is down.

It’s fiction.

In fact, the need has grown because thousands of people stopped coming to donation centers during the pandemic. Vlasta Hakes, Director of Communication for Grifols, explained why.

“Between the stay-at-home orders, social distancing, and people just being nervous about coming into the center or to leave their homes,” said Hakes.

Grifols is a pharmaceutical company that specializes in bioscience, diagnostic, hospital, and bio supplies. They have plasma donation centers across the country that have seen fewer people walking through doors recently.

That’s part of the reason there was a huge push to get people to donate during this global health crisis.

Plasma from people who recovered from Coronavirus has life-saving antibodies that could be used to treat chronically ill patients battling the virus.

Those antibodies are extracted and then used to create medicine.

Doctors aren’t relying on plasma quite as much because of the emergence of drugs like Bamlanivimab which has also been effective in treating patients with Coronavirus.

Dr. Robert Penn, an Infection Disease & Prevention Specialist for Methodist Hospital said “the pendulum in sense has switched back toward a more specific antibody formulation rather than kind of a shotgun antibody preparation that you would get in convalescent plasma.”

That doesn’t mean they need for plasma doesn’t exist though, especially because plasma is used to treat people with a variety of health issues.

The antibodies in a donation from someone who never had COVID, still help millions of patients with chronic illnesses like blood disorders, certain trauma victims, autoimmune disorders, and people with compromised immune systems.

The same can be said for people who have been vaccinated.

They too have antibodies that fight off COVID-19 along with antibodies that can be used for someone with a weakened immune system who can barely fight off a common cold.

But, it takes a lot of plasma to get the job done; taking anywhere from 130-1,200 donations to make enough medicine to treat one patient for just one year, according to Hakes.

It’s another reason why donation centers are willing to pay for your contribution. A typical donation can take anywhere from just under an hour to three hours, depending on how hydrated you are and how busy a center is.

Joshua Fouts said the money for each donation has helped him get rid of bills, take a vacation, and more.

“I end up with at least 80 bucks a week which is great for doing extra stuff. Taking my wife out,” Fouts said.

But even that’s on the lower end.

Right now the Grifols donation center in Council Bluffs is offering deals of up to $100 dollars extra to make up for the months-long downturn.

While money initially inspired Fouts, he said he continued donating for the past seven years because of the greater impact.

“You realize that somebody’s sister that you know, needs plasma for this or that. Then you kind of realize that you’re part of that circle,” he said.

Other centers, like the one in Council Bluffs, are also offering up to five or six hundred dollars a month for donations. A person can only go twice a week, with a full day in between.

A manager there said they’ve increased their pay incentives to help compete with people who may not necessarily donate to make a little extra money because of tax season and the recent distribution of stimulus checks.

The Iowa center also reminded people if safety is a concern, their facilities are thoroughly cleaned. Donation beds are wiped down in between every use, and all touchpoints are disinfected constantly.

A plasma donation can be used for up to five different medications and the center hopes people remember how life-saving that could be when considering the process.

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