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New Zealand Blood Service To Collect Convalescent Plasma To Help Treat COVID-19 Patients

New Zealand Blood Service (NZBS) has today started contacting New Zealand’s recovered COVID-19 patients to discuss whether they would be willing to donate their plasma to help treat others seriously affected by the virus.

The treatment known as convalescent plasma is by no means a new concept. It has been used since the 1920’s and in recent years has been used against SARS, H1N1 influenza, and other viruses.

The process being used is the same as that being used in other countries such as the UK and USA. Plasma is collected from people who have fully recovered and pose no risk of infecting others. This is called convalescent plasma and contains antibodies to the infection they’ve recovered from. It is these antibodies that can help others to fight off the infection.

“We are pleased to be able to help New Zealand in the fight against COVID-19,’ said Sarah Morley, Chief Medical Officer New Zealand Blood Service. “Recent international studies have indicated that patients with the virus may respond well to convalescent plasma. We are working closely with regional public health services to speak to recovered patients who are eligible to donate, to gauge their interest in donating convalescent plasma. The plasma we collect will be frozen and ready for use by hospitals for any future patients that need it”

“Whilst we appreciate this is a potentially exciting development in the treatment of COVID-19 in New Zealand, we also recognise that this may raise some questions amongst our current donors,” continued Sarah.

“We want to reassure everyone that this development still means donor centres are extremely safe places to visit. A recovered patient, as classified by the Ministry of Health, poses no potential risk to the wider community and they are no longer infectious.

“NZBS is extremely grateful that even in these extraordinary and unprecedented times, New Zealanders in need of blood and blood products are still able to rely on the kindness and generosity of blood donors.”

Key information:

New Zealand Blood Service is pleased to announce we are able to start collecting convalescent plasma to help in the treatment of COVID-19 patients

NZBS will be working with Public Health Services to contact potential donors officially classified as recovered from COVID-19 by their Regional Public Health Service.

NZBS will be booking appointments for recovered COVID-19 patients. Donations will be carefully managed through NZBS doctors and its administration team. Recovered patients who meet initial criteria (e.g. age, location) will be contacted directly by NZBS.

If you have recovered from COVID-19 DO NOT book your own appointment – wait to be contacted by NZBS. This is so criteria and process can be explained and the appointment can be tagged correctly as a convalescent plasma donation.

Potential convalescent plasma donors must meet NZBS’s criteria for donating plasma. However, NZBS will waive the deferral for pneumonia, along with some height and weight restrictions that usually exist for plasma donations, for these donors

Convalescent donors must have had a positive COVID-19 test at diagnosis and 28 days without a fever before donating. If the donor had no fever as part of their symptoms then the criteria used will be either clearance from their Regional Public Service for 14 days before donating, or be 28 days since their diagnosis. The criteria we will use is whichever is the longer of the two criteria.

NZBS will be collecting convalescent plasma donations at four of its nine fixed-site donor centres – Epsom, Hamilton, Wellington and Christchurch.

Donor Centres continue to be safe places to visit and travelling to a donate blood is considered essential travel.

For more information on donating blood during the COVID-19 lockdown, visit https://www.nzblood.co.nz/give-blood/covid-19-updates/

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