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DHA leaders recognize CCP collection campaign contributors & donors

Image of Three military personnel in uniform, wearing masks, in front of flags. Deputy Secretary of Defense David L. Norquist (left) and Army Lt. Gen. Ronald J. Place (right) present an award to Air Force Tech. Sgt. Christina Swope on behalf of all Air Force personnel who worked on convalescent plasma efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Navy Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kurtis A. Hatcher.)

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Top Department of Defense (DOD) leaders came together to recognize individuals and teams across the DOD for their effort in meeting the department’s goal of collecting 10,000 units of COVID-19 convalescent plasma (CCP) by September 30.

Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Tom McCaffery; and Army Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Ronald J. Place, director of the Defense Health Agency, hosted a recognition ceremony at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, for the individuals and teams that met the goal set by then Secretary of Defense Mark Esper.

“Your success can be attributed to the many hands that worked together to deliver immediate care,” Norquist said during his keynote address. “I congratulate you for achieving thousands of units in such a short amount of time — that is no small feat. It is a testament to your hard work to collect daily collections of at blood donor centers and your willingness to venture into hot spots for mobile blood drives. It would also not be possible without the generosity of approximately 3,000 donors who participated in this campaign.”

On June 1, DHA launched donation drives through its 20 Armed Services Blood Program centers across the continental United States and in Hawaii, Guam, and Germany to collect plasma from patients who have fully recovered from COVID-19 to support the development of an effective treatment against the disease. By the September deadline, DOD had exceeded the goal, obtaining 10,745 total units of procured and donated CCP from active-duty personnel, military retirees, their families, and non-DOD civilians.

“Our medical researchers and infectious disease specialists in this country went to work to understand the disease and what possible treatments we could develop to counter it,” said McCaffery in his opening remarks. “And that is where all of you came in, once again, bringing your expertise and your skills to bear to help offer a life-saving treatment – convalescent plasma – in the middle of a global pandemic,” he added before introducing the deputy secretary of defense.

Group of military personnel around a technician, looking at a computer screen
The Honorable David L. Norquist, Deputy Secretary of Defense; the Honorable Thomas P. McCaffery, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs; and Lieutenant General Ronald J. Place, MC, USA Director, Defense Health Agency toured the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) Apheresis Center. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kurtis A. Hatcher/Released)

The immune system of a COVID-19-positive patient creates infection-fighting antibodies contained in their plasma, or the liquid part of their blood. By donating blood, a patient who recovers fully can provide CCP rich in antibodies that can subsequently be transfused into a sick patient who is still fighting the virus to boost their immune system and help them recover.

“Today we gather to acknowledge your selfless act of volunteerism to collect or donate COVID convalescent plasma,” said Norquist. “Thanks to the hard work of the Defense Health Agency to synchronize this worldwide campaign, 160 patients within the Military Health System have received 250 units of plasma. That is 160 lives that you have affected.”

In his closing remarks, Place also congratulated the recipients for their contributions and highlighted that it was a team effort.

“Like every aspect of military medicine, the DHA and the Armed Service Blood Program draw from the expertise of the Army, Navy and Air Force leaders,” he said. “This was a shared success of everyone in military medicine.”

This success reflects the strength of that teamwork, according to Place.

“In my opinion, that’s the best kind of outcome for our health system,” he said. “The reforms to military medicine that Secretary Norquist and Secretary McCaffery are leading remain inspired by the belief that a well-integrated organization across functions, across military departments, and unified in its strategic execution, both internally and with our partners in civilian medicine, strengthens the health and readiness of our force.”

The DoD’s primary goals against the pandemic are to protect its people, maintain readiness, and support the national COVID-19 response. In addition to aiding in the development of new therapeutic treatments for COVID-19-positive patients in DoD facilities, CCP contributes to the overall efforts to combat the disease, thus helping accomplish each of those goals.

“On behalf of the healthcare team, I ask that every donor accept our thanks for their sacrifice — of blood, of plasma, of time, and even a little bit of pain — in order to help someone else,” concluded Place.

Even though the goal has been reached, DoD’s CCP collection effort is ongoing and recovered patients are encouraged to continue donating.

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