The National Blood Bank (BNS) and the San Juan de Dios, México and Calderón Guardia Hospitals are the centers for donating blood from patients recovered by COVID-19. However, to be a candidate you must meet certain requirements.
So far, 20 patients have been able to receive convalescent plasma treatment, which is used for people with COVID-19 who have a severe or critical condition, with less than 14 days of being hospitalized.
The recovered person’s antibodies act as a barrier against the Virus, helping the patient to recover. However, these will have a temporary effect and will decrease, so the plasma is classified as a treatment and not as a cure against the Virus.
Criteria for donating plasma
The donation can be made by means of extraction of whole blood volume or through plasmapheresis, a method that allows separating white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets, and is the ideal way to obtain a greater volume, almost half a liter of plasma per person. The process lasts approximately 45 minutes.
This technique requires that the person have a large vein that helps to access it properly, since during the donation, blood would be extracted, and through a blood cell separator, the plasma is retained and the red blood cells and platelets are returned by the same route to the donor. Plasma for the most part is made up of water, so donor recovery is very fast and donations can be more frequent.
A person recovered from COVID-19 could donate twice a week and up to a maximum of four times in a month; unlike the whole blood donation that takes place every two or three months. The main inclusion criterion is having been a person previously diagnosed with the Virus and with a current state of full recovery, according to the criteria and techniques defined by the Ministry of Health.
In addition, at least 14 days after recovery must have passed and being completely symptom-free,” explained Sebastián Molina, immunohematology specialist at the BNS. Other important characteristics are the following:
- Weigh more than 52 kilograms.
- Height more than 150 centimeters.
- Age between 18 and 62 years old, could donate up to 65 if you have given blood before not having received blood transfusions.
- In the case of women, not being pregnant or having recent abortions.
- People with the presence of some other virus in the blood will not be able to donate.
- Having heart, kidney or liver disease would be a contraindication.
- People with tattoos done up to one year past.
Plasma logistics procedure
Once the whole blood volume or plasma is collected, the Blood Bank will proceed with the laboratory tests and the preparation of the units. If the donations were made at the Calderón Guardia, San Juan de Dios or México hospitals, the products will be sent to the BNS for processing. They will be in charge of distributing the units to medical centers that have hospitalized COVID-19 patients and request the convalescent plasma for therapeutic use.
Molina mentioned that each patient would receive a transfusion with a difference of 24 hours between each dose. In late May, the president of the Costa Rican Social Security Fund, Román Macaya, spoke of the first Coronavirus patient to receive convalescent plasma. At the present time, there are 80 bags of the serum, but authorities have urged more recovered patients to donate.