Originally set to span two weeks, Blood Assurance now is offering complimentary COVID-19 antibody testing through September. The optional service is provided to blood donors at the Cartersville Donor Center.
“We began antibody testing on June 26,” said Caitlyn Mantooth, Blood Assurance’s, marketing coordinator. “We had originally only intended to do antibody testing for a couple of weeks, but due to community interest and the need for more research in the medical community, we decided to extend it and will now be offering antibody testing to all donors.
“Not much is known about these antibodies and we want to be able to help the medical community and patients locally. Having these antibodies tested is also critical for medical research and it allows us to identify potential convalescent plasma donors. Convalescent plasma is an essential therapy for those struggling with COVID-19 and identifying people who may not have known they had the virus will allow us to identify more potential donors.”
Established in 1972, Blood Assurance is a full-service blood center that assists medical facilities in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. Blood Assurance has served as Cartersville Medical Center's sole blood supplier for more than 15 years.
According to Blood Assurance’s news release, “Donors need to be aware this is not a diagnostic test for COVID-19 infection and if they believe they may be currently infected to please not give blood and instead consider visiting a health care provider. It is possible for this test to provide a falsely negative or falsely positive result and not all people make antibodies when exposed to COVID-19. What a positive test indicates is that the donor may currently have or previously had COVID-19 and have developed antibodies to the virus.”
On April 6, Blood Assurance launched its effort to collect convalescent plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients.
“If people have not heard about convalescent plasma this gives us an opportunity to tell people how they could save the lives of others who are fighting COVID-19,” Mantooth said, referring to potential convalescent plasma donors being identified through COVID-19 antibody testing. “After that they have the choice to give or not, but many people who find out they can help others choose to give.”
As of July 27, Blood Assurance has collected 1,969 units of convalescent plasma and shipped 1,218 to its medical facilities.
“I can’t say how many unique individuals have given, but I can say the 1,969 units came from 463 separate donations,” Mantooth said. “Each donor can give up to four products per donation, which would be given to four different people. One convalescent plasma donation can potentially save four lives.”
Further details about donating convalescent plasma can be obtained by visiting www.bloodassurance.org/covidplasma. Along with prequalifying, donors will need to meet various criteria, such as receiving an official COVID-19 diagnosis.
“There is a critical need for convalescent plasma at blood centers and hospitals all across the country, including at Blood Assurance,” Mantooth said. “Anyone who has had COVID-19, recovered and meets blood donation requirements is strongly encouraged to look into giving convalescent plasma.”
Locally, those interested in donating blood and receiving a COVID-19 antibodies test need to schedule an appointment at the Cartersville Donor Center. Located at 334 Cherokee Place in the Main Street Shopping Center, the facility is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Typically, most individuals 17 and older — 16 with parental consent — who weigh more than 110 pounds can donate blood every 56 days.
“We are definitely still feeling the impact of COVID-19,” Mantooth said. “Many of our drive partners are still not able to have outside visitors at their organizations, which for many includes blood drives. That’s why we need more donors to come to our centers now to help make up that deficit of donors. Forty percent of our donors are usually expected from mobile collections but that number is down right now and is expected to be low until more businesses begin allowing outside visitors.
“The need never stops and your blood donation can save three lives. There is no way to manufacture blood and the only blood used in hospitals comes from volunteer blood donors. Giving blood is perfectly safe and is essential to the infrastructure of our health care system and essential to saving lives.”
For more information about donating at Blood Assurance’s Cartersville Donor Center, call 770-334-3261 or visit https://donor.bloodassurance.org/donor/schedules/zip.