PORTLAND, Ore. — From now until the end of September, finding out if you have COVID-19 antibodies is as easy as donating blood.
Bloodworks, which has clinics in Vancouver and Eugene, is looking for donors. The nonprofit collects blood and provides it to more than 90 northwest hospitals.
Now, it's focusing on plasma, specifically plasma from those who have the COVID-19 antibodies.
"A lot of people have been exposed and don't know it," said Dr. Rebecca Haley, a medical director at Bloodworks. "Probably 40 to 50% who were infected with COVID-19 had a very slight illness or no illness at all and recovered and have antibodies."
So, how can antibodies help patients suffering from the virus?
"If my antibody levels are high, I can give plasma, the liquid part of my blood, and that might contain enough antibodies to help the person who is ill to get over it," said Haley.
Just this weekend, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it's allowing emergency use authorization for hospitals to treat COVID-19 patients with convalescent plasma, saying the benefits outweigh the risks.
In one study, experts found promising results.
"People who received the plasma early, people who received a good dose of those antibodies, fewer of them died," said Haley.
"There's a lot of promising early results and a lot of trials going on," said Dr. Donna Hansel, chair of pathology and laboratory medicine at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU).
Hansel said while knowing if you have COVID-19 antibodies could certainly help others, the jury is still out on how much it will help you.
"We still have a long way to go to understand what those antibodies mean, if it offers any sort of protections, and also how long hose antibodies last," she said.
Hansel stressed that even if you have the antibodies, you should keep practicing all the same precautions everyone else is.
But, if you want to help others struggling with COVID-19, donate your blood.
"We're now actually stocking plasma in the Portland areas so it can be used immediately because that seems to be the best to give it," pointed out Haley.