USAF, DOD Need COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Donors to Help Fight Pandemic

The Air Force is helping the Defense Department collect COVID-19 convalescent plasma from individuals who have recovered from the disease in hopes that it can help the military treat other patients, the service announced last month.

While the military is now nearly halfway to its goal of collecting 10,000 units of convalescent plasma—or the liquid part of the blood donated by people whose bodies have beaten the disease—it’s still seeking potential donors to help it reach that target by Sept. 30.

“Currently, we have almost reached 50 percent of our goal and encourage those who are able to donate to do so to help fight this persistent enemy,” Air Force Deputy Surgeon General Maj. Gen. Sean L. Murphy said in an Aug. 4 statement to Air Force Magazine.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, when people come down with COVID-19, they develop antibodies—or proteins that can tackle the virus that causes the disease.

Since these proteins live in blood plasma, when a qualifying recipient receives a convalescent plasma donation, it may boost their immune system and aid in their recovery, according to a July 10 USAF release.

“Early results in convalescent plasma therapy have shown great promise,” said Air Force Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Dorothy A. Hogg in the release.

However, plasma transfusions are reserved for COVID-19 patients who are in the hospital and “severely ill with the disease,” and must be performed according to an approved protocol, the release noted.

To take part in this DOD effort, a potential donor must:

  • Be DOD personnel, a family member of DOD personnel, or a non-DOD civilian “with access to collection facilities on installations.”
  • Be 17 years of age or older.
  • Weigh a minimum of 110 pounds.
  • Be healthy.
  • Provide laboratory test results showing they tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19.
  • Have had no symptoms of COVID for at least two weeks.

Additionally, “women who have ever been pregnant” may be required to undergo additional antibody testing to qualify, the release said.

“If a donor believes they meet these requirements, they must first contact the local blood donor center before coming in, and if they qualify, set up an appointment,” Army Blood Program director Col. Jason Corley said in the release. “Once set up, the donor must bring the required documentation and undergo the standard donation procedure. Final determination will be made by the medical director or designee.”

Donations may be made at the following Armed Services Blood Program Centers:

  • Armed Services Blood Bank Center, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Md.
  • Naval Medical Center Portsmouth Blood Donor Center, Portsmouth, Va.
  • Fort Bragg Blood Donor Center, Fort Bragg, N.C.
  • Kendrick Memorial Blood Center, Fort Gordon, Ga.
  • Sullivan Memorial Blood Center, Fort Benning, Ga.
  • Blood Donor Center, Keesler Air Force Base, Miss.
  • Lackland Air Force Base Armed Services Blood Bank Center, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas
  • Robertson Blood Center, Fort Hood, Texas
  • Akeroyd Blood Donor Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas
  • Fort Bliss Blood Donor Center, Fort Bliss, Texas
  • Naval Medical Center San Diego Blood Donor Center, San Diego, Calif.
  • Armed Services Blood Bank Center – Pacific Northwest, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
  • Tripler AMC Blood Donor Center, Tripler Army Medical Center, Hawaii
  • Naval Hospital Blood Donor Center, Guam
  • Armed Services Blood Bank Center Europe, Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany

The Air Force said it has used convalescent plasma to treat at least one COVID-19 patient so far.

“The first patient to receive convalescent plasma in the Air Force occurred in the intensive care unit at Keesler Air Force Base in April of this year,” said Chief Master Sgt. George “Steve” Cum, Medical Enlisted Force and Enlisted Corps chief, in the release. “This patient received plasma from the Armed Services Blood Program and was treated, has fully recovered and has been discharged.”