Esper: Military Exceeded COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Collection Goal

The Defense Department “collected nearly 11,000 units” of COVID-19 convalescent plasma by the end of fiscal 2020—almost 3,000 units more than its original goal—Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper announced Oct. 15. 

Speaking at the Heritage Foundation’s Washington headquarters, Esper said DOD created a plasma-gathering strategy earlier this year “to support advanced illness within the force.” 

“The priority for ASBP [Armed Services Blood Program] donations will be patients receiving treatment in military treatment facilities and operating units,” a Military Health System web page about the collection effort states. “However, the ASBP will continue to work closely with industry partners to support patients receiving care at the VA [Veterans Affairs Department] and in civilian hospitals.

USAF partnered with DOD on the plasma drive, Air Force Magazine previously reported.

Donations of blood plasma containing antibodies for the new coronavirus may boost the ability of eligible recipients’ immune systems to fight the pathogen, the Air Force wrote in July.

However, the MHS web page notes that, so far, only “anecdotal evidence” that this plasma can be an effective treatment for COVID-19 exists. 

“Current clinical studies are evaluating the treatment of severe infection (seriously ill and those in ICU) with high titer (antibodies) plasma,” it states.

Other “unknowns” about the use of plasma to fight the virus include the proper timetable for administering plasma so that it works, whether it can potentially help people “with mild or moderate” COVID-19, and whether giving people plasma following possible or confirmed exposure to the virus—but before symptoms appear—could keep them from getting COVID-19 or make their case shorter or less severe, according to the web page.

“Researchers are taking all of this into consideration and are working to develop appropriate products to serve as potential therapeutics,” it adds.