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COVID-19 vaccine could impact convalescent plasma donations

File photo of a patient donating convalescent plasma.jpg
Posted at 3:56 PM, Feb 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-03 19:53:58-05

Only people who have recovered from COVID-19 can donate convalescent plasma to help hospitalized patients fight the virus.

But there’s one change that’s making that pool of donors ineligible to give plasma right now.

"This was something that I was lucky to get through, so it was to me, it was important to give back to the community," said Stephanie Tomasimi.

Tomasimi spent Christmas day with those closest to her, her husband and children. The next day she had a fever that persisted for several days, and eventually she tested positive for COVID-19

"It was a mild case thankfully," Tomasimi said.

Tomasimi knew immediately she wanted to donate convalescent plasma.

"I've heard that the treatments do work for people in the hospital and help lessen the symptoms, and I just wanted to do my part," Tomasimi said.

But when she donated convalescent plasma at OneBlood in January, she got a surprise.

"I was asking them, I can give every 28 days. And he’s like, well, not if you get the vaccine. And I said, what do you mean?" Tomasimi said.

Even though the FDA is allowing people who have recovered from COVID-19 and received the vaccine to donate convalescent plasma, Susan Forbes with OneBlood said the organization is not ready to collect from that pool of donors just yet.

"It requires process changes and us to implement additional computer software upgrades to our system in light of those changes," Forbes said. "We’re moving as quickly as possible to put those in place."

"Is there any concern that there may be a depletion in the supply of plasma right now because you’re putting a pause on the collections for those who have received the vaccine?" WPTV reporter Michelle Quesada asked Forbes.

"It's still a small percentage of the people that we’re looking at who may be impacted by this recent change in eligibility," Forbes said.

If you had COVID-19 and have already received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, OneBlood said you can still donate blood and help patients in need right now.

Forbes said there is no timeline right now for when OneBlood will start collecting plasma from vaccinated donors. With vaccine availability for the general population a few months away, Tomasimi said she hopes other people like her will keep donating every 28 days.

"It's a very quick process and you know, love your neighbor," Tomasimi said.