A national clinical trial to test a possible treatment for the novel coronavirus, using plasma from people who have recovered from COVID-19, received its first donation.
Canadian Blood Services (CBS) announced on April 29 that received its first COVID-19 convalescent plasma donation from a donor in Vancouver, Jerry Glubisz, who has been an active blood donor for 15 years.
CBS is recruiting convalescent plasma donors for a new national convalescent plasma collection program and has launched an online registry. (Plasma is the liquid part of the blood that contains proteins, including antibodies which fight infections. After recovery, people produce large amounts of antibodies.)
After requisite testing and processing, all donations will be provided to Canadian physicians who have COVID-19 patients participating in the CONCOR-1 clinical trial, which will test convalescent plasma as a treatment for the coronavirus, and under authorization from Health Canada.
Additional testing will be conducted to ensure there are adequate antibodies against the COVID-19 virus in the donor’s plasma to be part of the trial.
The CONCOR-1 clinical trial involve Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec, 10 research teams, and over 50 hospitals across Canada.
“Convalescent plasma may help patients recover from COVID-19, but this has not yet been proven,” CBS chief scientist Dr. Dana Devine explained in a news release. “Well-designed clinical trials, like CONCOR, will help provide the necessary information about whether this is a safe and effective treatment option for patients.”
Plasma transfusions, in which randomly chosen patients will receive 500 millilitres of convalescent plasma transfusions, are expected to begin in a few weeks.
Convalescent plasma donors must meet current plasma donor eligibility criteria, be younger than 67 years old, have been previously confirmed positive for COVID-19 by a laboratory test, have been fully recovered from the virus and symptom-free a minimum of 28 days to participate, and live within driving distance of a donor centre.
There are 11 CBS centres across Canada in Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg, London, Hamilton, Toronto, Ottawa, and Halifax, but walk-in donations are not being accepted during the pandemic. Registered convalescent donors who qualify will be contacted.
Queer male blood donors
CBS’ policy regarding blood donations from men who have sex with men (MSM) has been the subject of controversy.
Queer men and other MSM have not been allowed to donate blood if they had sex with another man for the past three months, regardless of whether they are in a monogamous relationship or not.
The deferral period had previously been reduced from one year, which became effective in June 2019.
Advocates and activists call the policy discriminatory and based on stereotyping, and are calling for behaviour-based screening to replace identity-based policies.
As countries have been facing blood-supply shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic, some countries have changed their regulations for donations from queer men.
Australia announced on April 17 that it will be reducing its wait period to three months and Northern Ireland announced on April 29 that it will reduce restrictions on queer male donors to match standards in the U.K.
The U.S. also reduced its wait time on April 2, matching policies in Canada and the U.K.