Need for convalescent plasma, COVID-19 medicine worries San Antonio-area doctors

CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Hospital in New Braunfels holding plasma drive Wednesday

CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Hospital in New Braunfels is making a big push to get people with COVID-19 antibodies to donate at a plasma drive Wednesday.

SAN ANTONIO – As hospitalizations for COVID-19 rise dramatically in the San Antonio area, so does the demand for convalescent plasma and other treatments now feared to be in short supply.

CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Hospital in New Braunfels is making a big push to get people with COVID-19 antibodies to donate at a drive scheduled from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday a the Medical Plaza.

Dr. Mark Chalaby, the head of restorative critical care at the hospital, said they are running at capacity right now and are worried about having enough plasma to help those who can be helped by its healing power.

“It’s urgent because there’s a shortage and we are at a peak. We are still peaking with our cases so anybody who has had the coronavirus and has recovered is eligible to donate actually several times,” he said.

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The larger numbers of patients coming in is slamming the critical care facility in New Braunfels and there are reports of shortages of nurses, therapists, respiratory therapists and more. In particular, the drug remdesivir, which is approved by the FDA to treat COVID-19, is in high demand, but the supply for the drug is short.

“It has to go through a committee for approval and then we have a shortage of it. And then even, plasma can take up to 24, 48 hours to get it to the patient. So usually even the emergency room now, they’re giving dexamethasone as soon as the patient goes there,” Chalaby said.

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The steroid drug is used to decrease the massive amounts of painful inflammation most coronavirus patients suffer. While some hospitals locally reported they ran out of it on Monday, Chalaby said CHRISTUS Santa Rosa’s supply is holding steady.

Wednesday’s convalescent plasma drive in New Braunfels is being held in association with the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center. While most of the donation appointments are filled already, it’s hoped that walk-up donors will be able to offer their plasma as well.

About the Author:

Ursula Pari has been a staple of television news in Texas at KSAT 12 News since 1996 and a veteran of broadcast journalism for more than 30 years.