An urgent appeal has been issued for recovered coronavirus patients to donate their blood plasma in a bid to help the NHS treat people who fall ill during a potential second wave.
The number of appointments booked each week as part of the ongoing NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) convalescent plasma collection has dropped by almost half in the past month, with fewer eligible donors as the number of new infections fell in lockdown.
While about 13,000 donations had been made so far, more were urgently needed to help in the event of a second wave, NHSBT’s chief medical officer Gail Miflin said.
A major trial is ongoing, looking at how convalescent plasma can be transfused into patients who are struggling to develop their own immune response, but the appeal for donations is now being described as urgent.
Males especially are being encouraged to help, after analysis reported in June showed that men produce more coronavirus antibodies than women, making them better plasma donors.
Results from the trial into the safety and effectiveness of such transfusions are expected later this year, but donations are being collected in advance in order for the NHS to have a stock ready to go.
Donated plasma is frozen and can be used up to three years later.
Dr Miflin said: “We need people to offer to donate now so we are ready to potentially provide an additional line of protection during any second wave.
“The number of new infections has declined greatly, which is fantastic news. Fewer people are getting Covid-19.
“This does mean we need to work harder to recruit new donors and we urgently need as many people as possible who have recovered to donate, to help us make as much progress as possible now.”
Comedian Hal Cruttenden, who has donated convalescent plasma twice, after spending 10 days ill with the virus, said it was a simple way to help.
He said: “A lot of people feel powerless and it’s nice to be able to do something that other people can benefit from.
“And the truth is, it’s an easy way to feel good about yourself because you are not doing anything too hard – plus they give you biscuits.”
England’s oldest donor with high enough antibodies to take part in the trial will donate for the fourth time on Monday.
Malcolm Shaw spent eight days in hospital with the virus, having caught it at the beginning of April.
The 72-year-old former consultant cancer nurse said he was “very happy” to be told his antibody levels were high and added that he intended to keep donating for as long as he could.
Mr Shaw, who worked as a lead cancer nurse in Guernsey before retiring with his wife to the Wirral, said: “To anyone, I would say if you feel able to donate, please do.
“It could really make a difference to someone’s life. Donating is straightforward and you are sure to receive a warm welcome from the care team.”
People can offer to donate by calling 0300 123 23 23 or visiting www.nhsbt.nhs.uk.