Post #754: Convalescent plasma, updated

Posted on July 11, 2020

Source:  US Centers for Disease Control.

I first wrote about convalescent plasma in Post #616, 4/9/2020.  The idea being, you take people who have recovered from COVID-19, filter the antibodies to COVID-19 out of the their blood, and give those antibodies to others, where they would help the recipients to recover from a COVID-19 infection.

It’s a treatment method that dates back at least a century.  It has been effective against a wide range of other diseases.  As of 7/1/2020, MedScape says it has not yet been proven effective against COVID-19.  At least one study showed no benefit of giving to people once they were seriously ill.  (Which I find unsurprising, as almost nothing works on late-stage viral illnesses.)  But there are cases reports of excellent outcomes with it, as well.

Researchers now suggest that convalescent plasma could be used as a sort of short-term vaccine.  You’d inject these plasma-derived antibodies into a healthy person, it would confer immunity to COVID-19 for a couple of months.  And you would use this approach to protect key at-risk populations such as health care workers and first responders.

While the government is helping to gear up to provide convalescent plasma to very ill COVID-19 victims, researchers who want to use it like a vaccine apparently can’t get the time of day from government or industry.   At least, that’s what’s reported in the link above.

The reason this particular article caught my eye is that it specifically mention students in dorms as a potential target high-risk population.  I have to say, as we’re about a month away from sending my daughter back to college, having some sort of short-term vaccine available would certainly ease my mind.

A final consideration is that there’s no guarantee that we will find an effective vaccine.  Hence the picture at the top of the page.  What if that’s as good as it gets?  Suppose that’s the limit of what they can do with a COVID-19 vaccine?  In that light, having some sort of back up plan in the works seems pretty sensible.  (I’m working up the materials for another post on flu vaccine, hope to get to it over the weekend.)

I find it fascinating that these researchers can’t get any traction, from anyone, on this.  Even though there seems to be good agreement that it ought to work.  Given that the USA is not taking the road of trying to eliminate the virus from circulation, you’d think that anything that promised protection from the virus would get immediate interest.  Particularly something that is safe, cheap, and plentiful — as is argued in the reference above.

Apparently, we’re not that desperate yet.  Who knew?  I’d have said otherwise.  Perhaps it’ll just take a few more hard knocks (Post #725) before people are willing to give this approach a fair shot.