We Are Blood has enlisted local celebrities who have recovered from COVID-19, including Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel, to enlist residents to donate plasma in a new ad campaign. (Courtesy We Are Blood / Travis County)

We Are Blood is seeking plasma donations from recovered COVID-19 patients in central Texas, sourcing convalescent plasma to treat coronavirus patients in the event of another increase in cases. At a September 8 meeting, the regional blood donor organization presented Travis County Commissioners’ Court with a request for $ 600,000 to help with advertising and testing initiatives as the organization ramps up the process. recruitment of plasma donors.

Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr Mark Escott said convalescent plasma is the best bet central Texas doctors have for treating severe cases of COVID-19 and among the few treatment options that have made their mark. evidence.

“It’s the thing we can get and what we can get more of in this second wave of cases that we certainly expect to see this fall and winter,” Escott said. “We have no other options at the moment, and I think this represents the best hope we have of sustaining a treatment, which we can produce ourselves for this event.”

We Are Blood established a COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma program as part of the Mayo Clinic’s Expanded Access Program for Convalescent Plasma in April. According to We Are Blood president and CEO Marshall Cothran, the organization was confident in its plasma supply until July, when cases increased in and around Travis County. Within 10 days, We Are Blood’s plasma inventory was depleted. We Are Blood has a comfortable supply of plasma again, but Cothran has said he’s determined to be ready if another surge occurs.

“It almost looks strangely like what we felt back in June, when we had been building this program for two months and felt like we could handle everything. Then July came, and we couldn’t, ”Cothran said.

As We Are Blood seeks to increase its supply, it also faces a deadline for the Food and Drug Administration’s new emergency use authorization for COVID-19 convalescent plasma. The FDA’s investigative program will expand access to treatment, but it will also require organizations like We Are Blood to perform additional tests on units of plasma measuring the effectiveness, or titer, of antibodies in each donation. by December 1.

Over the next few months, We Are Blood aims to expand its donation pool to include Central Texans who may not be aware they have been exposed to COVID-19. Through antibody tests, We Are Blood can determine if a blood donor is a candidate for donating convalescent plasma. Cothran estimates that 51,000 antibody tests will be needed during the program.

In order to recruit people who have recovered after testing positive for COVID-19, We Are Blood proposed an advertising campaign featuring local celebrities who have recovered from the virus, such as Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel, encouraging recovered patients to make plasma. donations.

The ad campaign, along with the antibody tests and plasma titer assay kits needed to run the program for 12 months, would cost $ 600,000 from Travis County CARES law funds. County commissioners will vote on the allocation at a future meeting.

People who have recovered from COVID-19 and wish to donate plasma can find out more at www.weareblood.org/convalescent-plasma.