Michigan Has A Severe COVID Plasma Shortage

Nov 13, 2020

Dr. Paul Camacho holds up a bag of plasma donated by COVID-19 survivor Sandra Rodrigo at the Hemocentro blood bank in La Paz, Bolivia, Friday, June 12, 2020
Credit Juan Karita / AP Photo

Rapidly rising COVID-19 infections are causing a shortage of convalescent plasma in Michigan.

It's collected from blood donors who have coronavirus antibodies and may help others who are severely ill.

Doctor Dan Waxman is the senior medical director at Versiti Blood Centers of Michigan. It supplies plasma to many hospitals around the state. Waxman says demand now far exceeds supply.

"We last week alone, we distributed over 300 products, convalescent plasma products, in Michigan. And, at the time, the most we made was about 124."

A "product" equals one dose of convalescent plasma. Waxman says a single donor can give plasma that can help three or four COVID-19 patients. And he says Versiti needs at least 50 plasma donors with COVID antibodies a week to keep up with demand. But that's not happening right now.

"If we keep going like this, we're going to have to start backordering patients where, an order comes in from a hospital for a patient today, and we have to tell them, 'Okay, we're not going to be able to fill this today.' We have to wait a couple of days until we get these products collected and produced."

Waxman says that's a serious problem because plasma therapy works best if it starts right away.

Waxman says some people who come in to make regular blood and plasma donations could end up helping COVID patients too.

Waxman says convalescent plasma donors can safely make donations once a week. The process takes about 30 to 40 minutes. He says blood donation centers have procedures in place to protect donors and staff from the coronavirus.