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People giving blood to the Red Cross are finding out if they have COVID-19 antibodies

Posted at 6:55 PM, Dec 02, 2020

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — People donating blood to the Red Cross are learning whether or not they have ever had COVID-19.

In June, the Red Cross began testing every blood donation for COVID-19 antibodies. Now, people are getting the results within two weeks of donating.

"I'll be honest with you, I've donated twice since COVID-19 and I literally sit there with my donor app refreshing every day trying to see if I carry the antibody," said Sherri McKinney, regional communications director for the American Red Cross.

Vials from blood donated in Tennessee are sent to St. Louis and tested for the antibodies. The Red Cross uses the same process to check for a variety of infections including hepatitis and HIV. The results of a donor's COVID-19 antibody test are made available for free on the blood donor app.

"Honestly one of the things you get from donating blood isn't just that great feeling that you did something for someone else, but it is literally like a full health screen of your blood," McKinney said.

People who are positive for COVID-19 antibodies are being urged to donate convalescent plasma, which in another person's body can attack and neutralize the disease.

"Even people who have never donated blood, but know they've had COVID-19, [this] is a great opportunity to do this," McKinney said.

According to the Red Cross, the demand for convalescent plasma is up 250% from September.

"We're going to need even more people to step up and donate," said McKinney.

Infectious disease doctors at Vanderbilt University Medical Center continue to study the effectiveness of convalescent plasma as a treatment option. While it is considered a relatively safe treatment option with limited side effects, doctors believe it is too soon to tell if it is the best option for the future.