San Antonio doctor clears confusion around COVID-19 vaccinations, plasma donations

Plasma antibodies from vaccine alone aren’t approved for sick patients, doctor says

SAN ANTONIO – A San Antonio doctor is clearing up confusion whether the US Food and Drug Administration is allowing people who received a COVID-19 vaccine to donate plasma with antibodies to help heal sick patients.

The confusion comes at a time as health professionals say the need for plasma and blood has become more dire in recent weeks with the pandemic raging on.

Dr. Samantha Gomez Ngamsuntikul, of the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center, said a person having antibodies developed from a vaccine alone isn’t eligible to donate plasma to help patients already sick with COVID-19.

“They have an antibody to what’s called the spike protein, right? And so, that’s only a small part of the coronavirus,” Gomez Ngamsuntikul said.

However, someone who was vaccinated could still be eligible to donate plasma if they had COVID-19 and still have antibodies that were produced from infection.

“When it’s part of your natural immunity, the immune response is a really broad type of immune response,” Gomez Ngamsuntikul said.

In addition to plasma, the ongoing pandemic has also led to a major call for blood donations from people who are currently healthy, regardless of a former COVID-19 diagnosis.

“We’re seeing about a 35% increase of orders on the average from hospitals, which is putting us in a bind,” said South Texas Blood and Tissue Center corporate communications specialist Roger Ruiz.

Ruiz said a blood drive competition being led by San Antonio City Council members in their respective districts is aimed at offering some relief.

“We thought this would be a good idea to put out a friendly challenge throughout the community with all the districts to see if we can help turn this around,” Ruiz said.

The blood drive competition ends Jan. 22. The councilperson who wins gets bragging rights and another prize that hasn’t been finalized yet.

For times and locations on where to donate, click here, or call the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center at 210-731-5555.

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Deven Clarke is the crime and justice reporter for KSAT12.