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Madigan collects CCP in fight against COVID-19

Four people in a hospital room wearing masks Frank Wake, left, works with COVID-19 survivor, Karen Conley, to draw convalescent plasma through a process called plasmapheresis. Apheresis nurse Steve Christodoulou, right, explains the process to Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Thomas McCaffery as he visits the Armed Services Blood Bank Center - Pacific Northwest at Madigan Army Medical Center on Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Tacoma Washington.

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Coronavirus | Convalescent Plasma Collection Program

The COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma (CCP) Collection Program is a Department of Defense effort to obtain 10,000 units CCP with emphasis on blood donations by members of the military community who have recovered from the disease. CCP will be given to critically ill patients, and to support the development of an effective treatment against the disease. Potential donors should visit the Armed Services Blood Program website at: https://www.militaryblood.dod.mil/Donors/COVID-19andBloodDonation.aspx - to find a complete list of available collection centers.


The world is searching for a treatment, a cure and a prevention for COVID-19. One piece of that puzzle may be tapped via the sap of human life – blood. At Madigan Army Medical Center, and 19 other Department of Defense facilities, those who have recovered from COVID-19 can donate the liquid part of their blood – the plasma – in an effort to apply it to use as a treatment for those battling the disease now.

Health Affairs Thomas McCaffery made a special stop at the Armed Services Blood Bank Center - Pacific Northwest (ASBBC-PNW) to talk to the staff about convalescent plasma and the DoD’s effort to collect 10,000 units by Sept. 30.

“We are doing this across the DoD, across the Military Health System,” said McCaffery. “This is an all-in effort, we are counting down to the end of September to get those ten thousand units.”

Army Maj. Juan Guzman, the chief of the ASBBC-PNW, toured McCaffery through the center’s operations; which was started with Navy Hospitalman Edward Yelland, a lab technician, taking McCaffery’s forehead temperature before the Assistant Secretary entered the center.

Army Capt. Zachary Albright, the center’s officer-in-charge, had the center’s impressive blood product collection numbers at the ready and offered an overview of operations before Army Maj. (Dr.) Benjamin Cook, the medical director for Transfusion Services, gave McCaffery a blast of chilly air from the center’s deep freezers.

According to the National Institutes of Health, in order to retain viability, plasma must be frozen at subzero temperatures.

After a look at the processing area and an introduction to the tri-service staff, McCaffery was shown the apheresis room where he was able to see Steve Christodoulou, an apheresis nurse, and Frank Wake, a phlebotomist, attending to a COVID-19 convalescent plasma donor.

Within that plasma reside antibodies – proteins that the immune system produces in response to infection.

Convalescent plasma has been used for nearly a century to transfer antibodies from a recovered person to help protect another from an infection. In that time, there has been some evidence that there has been benefit against rabies, hepatitis B, polio, measles, influenza, Ebola and other pathogens. Small case studies have also shown that during previous coronavirus outbreaks of Middle East respiratory syndrome and severe acute respiratory syndrome, known as MERS and SARS, respectively, the use of convalescent plasma was both safe and helpful in clearing the virus faster.

COVID-19 is the disease caused by the virus known as SARS-CoV2, which is a coronavirus.

“It is important for people to donate,” said Guzman. “It’s helping lives.”

Beyond speeding the clearance of the virus, McCaffery also sees expanded possibilities in the plasma’s use.

“We believe there is potential for this plasma to ultimately be converted into another treatment that can be used as a preventive measure, or be used for somebody who has been exposed to COVID and can get this as treatment to prevent the further development of the virus,” McCaffery said.

Many people may be familiar with typical blood donation. The apheresis process takes longer, roughly 45 minutes, but is no more complicated for the donor. The center has lounge chairs, reading material, televisions and movies and no shortage of snacks. The staff ensures that it has all the favorites of regular donors on hand to make them as comfortable as possible.

“People can donate several ways – through apheresis or through whole blood,” said Guzman. “People can offer their blood, their life-saving product and help out people in need.”

To learn more about the Military Health System’s Convalescent Plasma Collection Program, visit https://go.usa.gov/xf8h5. For more info on donating, visit www.militaryblood.dod.mil.

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