The donation of safe blood for the treatment of various illnesses is a critical part of Philippine health care, even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, blood donation may push the national health response even further as it bolsters the supply of convalescent plasma as a possible treatment for the disease.

This year, World Blood Donor Day will once again be commemorated on June 14 and officials from the Department of Health (DOH) are renewing calls for volunteer blood donors, especially from COVID-19 survivors.

In the June 10 Beat COVID-19 Virtual Presser, DOH representatives led by Undersecretary Dr. Maria Rosario Singh-Vergeire, reported that studies are currently being conducted to determine if convalescent plasma is an effective treatment against the virus.

Calling for “Dugoyanihan”, National Voluntary Blood Services Program Manager Marites Estrella said, “Kailangan pong buhayin natin ang diwa ng bayanihan tungo sa boluntaryong pagbibigay ng dugo na tinatawag na namin ngayong Dugoyanihan, Isang Pamilya, Isang Lahi, Isang Bansa.”

“Hindi naman po huminto ang pangangailangan ng dugo sa ating mga ospital. Araw-araw ay maraming nangangailangang pasyente na may iba’t ibang karamdaman tulad ng cancer, leukemia, hemophilia, at iba pa.”

According to Dr. Pedrito Tagayuma, the Officer-in-charge of the Philippine Blood Center, convalescent plasma refers to the plasma that is collected from the blood of a patient that has recovered from an illness. In the case of COVID-19, this means collecting plasma that contains either immunoglobin G (IgG) or immunoglobin M (IgM) antibodies or both.

IgMs typically begin to appear approximately seven days after a person is infected while IgGs appear approximately 14 days after. While there is still no conclusive evidence that these antibodies may assist in the recovery of another infected individual, the plasma is still safe to use as part of the research on its effectiveness as a treatment.

“Sa mga pag-aaral, sa mga panulat at sa mga manggagamot na gumamit na nito, very encouraging ang mga resulta ng mga gumaling na pasyente,” said Tagayuma.

Those who are allowed to donate COVID-19 convalescent plasma include individuals who initially tested positive by Reverse-Transcription Polymerase-Chain-Reaction (RT-PCR) testing, but tested negative upon recovering, and absent of symptoms for at least 14 days.

People who tested positive using RT-PCR testing may also donate even without a negative RT-PCR test, provided they have not shown symptoms for at least 28 days.

For those who have not been screened using RT-PCR testing but have tested positive for IgG antibodies may donate once they have been symptom free for at least 28 days.

Tagayuma further explained that donors must have a weight of more than 50kg, ages 16 to 60 years old, with normal blood pressure. Donors may be deferred for other existing medical conditions and females must never have been pregnant.

“Marami sa ating mga kababayan ang nakasalalay sa steady supply ng blood sa mga ospital, at kung sakaling maubusan ay hindi na sila makakayanang suportahan pa,” Vergeire emphasized. It is imperative that we provide fresh and regular blood supply everyday for all patients, whether or not afflicted with COVID-19.

“Kaya nanawagan po kami uli sa ating mga kababayan na tumungo sa mga blood banks tulad ng Philippine Blood Center para mag donate ng dugo para sa ating mga kababayan na nangangailangan,” pahayag ni Undersecretary Dr. Maria Rosario Singh-Vergeire.