PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - While it's promising to see the first round of people getting vaccinated for COVID-19, a new problem that blood banks face is less convalescent plasma donations.
The reason why: after you get the vaccine, you cannot donate plasma. So what does that mean for people in the hospital with COVID-19 who need it?
Vitalant blood bank said right now, one in every four patients hospitalized with COVID requires a convalescent plasma transfusion. But in order to keep that going, donations have to keep up.
"I am just feeling absolutely grateful and thankful to be alive," said Arizona state representative Lorenzo Sierra.
Just weeks ago, Sierra was on a ventilator with a 13 to 33% chance to live from COVID. But the game-changer: convalescent plasma. Once he started getting that, he made a 180.
"They have said my recovery has been something that they have not seen, so I have to imagine that the convalescent plasma I took did have some part in my recovery," he said.
But now the worry is if donations can keep up with the demand for those who need it as Sierra did.
Convalescent plasma therapy uses blood from people who've recovered from an illness to help others get better.
"This is all happening; it's changing every single day," said Sue Thew with Vitalant blood bank.
Once people are vaccinated, they cannot donate plasma. Vitalant said the reason why is because the vaccine causes spike antibodies, and for convalescent plasma, they need nucleocapsid antibodies.
Vitalant said they're working with the FDA to get permission for those who had COVID before and have donated plasma before to continue doing so after they get the vaccine.
"We're hoping that that permission will come through in the next few weeks to a couple of months," Thew said.
Representative Sierra said he plans to help as many COVID patients as possible while he can.
"Hopefully, I can give plasma at least a couple of times before I get my vaccination," said Sierra.
If you had COVID 28 days ago or more, you're eligible and encouraged to donate your plasma at any Vitalant location around Arizona.