We spoke exclusively to Dr Raghvendrra Chikatoor, Senior Consultant and HOD, Cardiovascular thoracic and Transplant Surgeon, BGS Gleneagles Global Hospital to understand the situation and what can be done to handle it
Why do you predict a shortage of blood donors in the coming two months?
We all know that vaccination plays an important role in achieving herd immunity against the Corona pandemic. The government of India is rolling out the third phase of Covid vaccination targeting people aged 18-44 years from the 1st of May 2021. As per the guidelines issued by National Blood Transfusion Council (NBTC), vaccinated individuals cannot donate blood for 28 days after each dose of vaccine. Many state governments have announced partial or near-total lockdown in view of the rapid surge of cases during the second wave. With educational institutes being closed and young professionals mandated to work from home, blood banks cannot carry out donation camps. Hence they could face an acute shortage as young people in the age group 19-44 years comprises of majority of donors.
What do you urge people to do?
We urge the young healthy volunteers to donate blood either before taking the covid vaccine or at least 28 days after the first dose (before taking the second dose). All is not lost yet as the vaccine administration for roughly 40 crore population in 18-44 age group is going to take time.
Earlier in March 2021, NBTC had said that those who get vaccinated cannot donate blood up to 28 days after the second dose, all-in-all for 56 days after the first dose for Bharat Biotech’s Covaxine. In the case of the AstraZeneca-Covishield vaccine by SII Pune, the second dose is given after 6 weeks and hence had to wait for 70 days.
Considering the huge potential stress on the blood banks, NTBC, later on, modified their guidelines to recommend blood donation 28 days after the first dose. This has considerably eased the pressure on blood banks. Young, healthy donors should voluntarily walk into blood banks to donate as cancer & Thalassemia patients, accident victims and patients who undergo emergency surgery are in dire need of blood & its products.
Your views on plasma donation to fight Covid?
Convalescent Plasma Therapy (CPT) remains an off-label option in Covid-19 treatment protocol. It may help selected subset of patients with moderate disease early in the course ( first 7-10 days of onset of symptoms, preferably in 3-7 days) and prevent further worsening, requirement of ICU care and to reduce length of hospital stay.
Any person who has had Covid-19 develops antibodies after 14 days and CPT is rich in antibodies against SARS-COV-2 spike protein which helps the recipients passively fight the disease.
Who can donate plasma?
Any person aged 18-60 years, weighing at least 50 Kg and who has recovered from Covid -19 can donate plasma 28 days after complete recovery.
About 500 ml of plasma (yellow part of blood) is donated and can be repeated every 15 days up to three months.
If they had symptoms like cough, fever, breathlessness, they are more likely to have a higher IgG antibody level.
Donors will have to undergo antibody screening test, CBC ( complete blood count), serum protein level, Blood grouping & Rh typing and other screening tests to rule out infections.
Who cannot donate plasma?
Those who weigh less than 50 Kg
Diabetics on insulin
Uncontrolled diabetes & hypertension
Chronic heart/kidney/ liver or lung disease
Pregnant women and those who had a pregnancy in the past.