P.E.I. COVID-19 patients being asked to donate plasma for national clinical trial


Canadian Blood Services in Charlottetown is hoping Islanders who have had COVID-19 will consider making a plasma donation, as part of a national clinical trial to test whether COVID-19 convalescent plasma could help treat patients with the virus.

Blood plasma from recovered patients — called “convalescent plasma,” is expected to be rich in virus-fighting immune molecules called antibodies, produced by the body in response to infection.

“They’ve developed antibodies to fight off the virus during their illness,” said Peter MacDonald, director of donor relations for Canadian Blood Services in Atlantic Canada

“And after you’re recovered, those antibodies remain in your plasma, so they shield you from the possibility of any future infection. And in theory there’s potential that those could be key ingredients for the treatment to help others who would contract that same virus.”

The trial involves 11 research teams and 50 hospitals across the country. Researchers are hoping to collect convalescent plasma from 1,200 COVID-19 patients across Canada. So far in Atlantic Canada, there has been one donation in New Brunswick, one is scheduled to take place in Halifax this week and MacDonald is hopeful at least a few will come from P.E.I. 

‘We’re forecasting for hospital demand to begin to ramp up,’ says Peter MacDonald, Atlantic Canada director of donor relations. (Stephanie Blanchet/CBC)

“We would welcome any of the 27 folks who’ve recovered from COVID-19 to take part in the clinical trial,” said MacDonald.

To participate, patients need to have had a laboratory-confirmed case of COVID-19, be symptom-free for 28 days, and be under 67 years old. Participants can register online. 

“I feel that people are looking for ways to contribute, and this is a unique way to provide optimism in such an uncertain time,” said MacDonald. 

“Our first donor shared that after going through COVID-19 as a patient, and seeing the impact worldwide, he felt he truly wanted to do anything he could to help.” 

MacDonald said anyone donating blood — or plasma — will notice some changes to the experience, including a health check upon arrival, masks for both staff and patients and the post-donation snack must to be taken to go. 

Donations up since COVID-19

MacDonald said since March, blood donations in Charlottetown have gone up, from an average of 120 units per week to 150, an increase he attributes to businesses and services shutting or slowing down. He hopes strong donations will continue — as things start to reopen, an increase in the need for blood products will quickly follow.  

“We’re forecasting for hospital demand to begin to ramp up,” said MacDonald. “There’s a backlog that needs to be caught up, province by province, as provinces open up. We will see more vehicles on the road and kind of a return to a new normal. And, you know, with that comes the trauma and the need for blood and blood products.” 

MacDonald is asking anyone who would like to make a donation to call or schedule an appointment online. Due to COVID-19, walk-in appointments aren’t currently being accepted.

More from CBC P.E.I.

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