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Iowa's convalescent plasma supply may run out by Dec. 1

To help replenish the supply, Iowa leaders are asking people who have recovered from COVID-19 to volunteer to donate convalescent plasma.

DES MOINES, Iowa — If you have recovered from COVID-19 and are able to donate plasma, Iowa leaders are asking you to step up.

"Convalescent plasma is being used as an experimental treatment for COVID-19 and has proven to have positive results for many patients,” Gov. Kim Reynolds said during a COVID-19 press conference Tuesday.

Convalescent plasma is blood plasma from people who have recovered from the coronavirus.

The antibodies in that plasma are thought to help patients currently fighting the virus.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an emergency use authorization for the treatment in August.

As one of just a few approved therapeutics being used right now in the U.S., it's in high demand.

"As the patient demand is skyrocketing, so is the need for convalescent plasma,” said Christine Hayes, Chief Operating Officer at LifeServe Blood Center.

At the current pace, Hayes estimated the supply of convalescent plasma in Iowa will be depleted by Dec. 1.

"In the past few weeks, more than 900 units of convalescent plasma have been transfused to patients here locally in Iowa," Hayes said. "The downside of that is that amount is more than the first four months of the pandemic."

One plasma donation has the potential to help up to four patients with COVID-19, so each donation really goes a long way.

People can also donate plasma multiple times, but be aware of how the center you go to uses your plasma.

"Only a volunteer blood donor is able to provide convalescent plasma that is transfusable to a hospital patient,” Hayes said. “Paid plasma centers are important and are needed for pharmaceutical generation, but transfusable convalescent plasma must come from a volunteer blood donor."

Only two blood centers in Iowa send convalescent plasma directly to patients in Iowa hospitals.

Those are LifeServe Blood Centers and Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Centers.

Both centers have several locations throughout the state.

Click/tap here to see LifeServe Blood Center locations.

Click/tap here to see Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center locations.

To be eligible to donate, you must have been diagnosed with COVID-19 through a diagnostic test or by a physician or have tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies. 

At LifeServe Blood Center, in most cases, you can donate convalescent plasma every seven days up to four times in an eight week period. 

You have to be symptom-free for 14 days to donate, but after that, LifeServe recommends going in as soon as possible. 

That is because your antibody count is highest at that point. Those antibodies may go away after 60-90 days. Once they're gone, you can't donate anymore.