What is COVID-19 convalescent plasma?

Feb. 15, 2021

What is convalescent plasma?

Since there is no cure for COVID-19, medical providers are doing all they can to help people who are sick with the novel coronavirus. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized convalescent plasma therapy for people with COVID-19.

Convalescent plasma therapy uses blood from people who have recovered from COVID-19 to help others who are sick. When we get sick, our bodies create antibodies to fight infections. People who have recovered, or “convalesced” from COVID-19, are able to donate their “convalescent plasma,” which contains antibodies that may help another person fight COVID-19.

Do I qualify?

COVID-19 convalescent plasma may only be collected from people who have recovered from COVID-19 if they are eligible to donate blood.

You must have:

  • Prior diagnosis of COVID-19 documented by a laboratory test.
  • Complete resolution of symptoms at least 14 days before the donation.
  • Have not received a COVID-19 vaccine within 14 days.
  • Have experienced COVID-19 symptoms within the past three months.
  • Meet all requirements for blood donation.
  • More details are outlined in the FDA guidelines.

Donating convalescent plasma

  • The Garth Englund Blood Center in Northern Colorado has currently suspended the collection of COVID-19 convalescent plasma. Donors are still needed for platelets and whole blood, which does not require a COVID-19 antibody test. If interested in being a donor, fill out this form or contact the Fort Collins (970.495.8965) or Loveland (970.614.1510) donation centers for more information.
  • Outside Northern Colorado: Go to the Vitalant Website to donate.

Where can I find more information?

Antibody testing – Frequently asked questions

Which tests can I get through UCHealth?

UCHealth offers two types of COVID-19 testing. All testing is voluntary.

One type of test can tell whether you currently have the virus that causes COVID-19. This test requires a nose swab.

UCHealth also is offering an antibody test. This test tells whether you have been exposed to COVID-19. This test requires a blood draw.

For updated information on COVID-19 testing through UCHealth, please click here. For information on community testing locations throughout Colorado, please click here.

What is the difference between a COVID-19 test and antibody test?

A nose-swab test can detect the virus that causes COVID-19 in someone who is sick now.

An antibody test can see if someone may have been exposed to COVID-19 and now has antibodies to the virus.

What are antibodies?

When we get infections, our bodies create proteins to fight infections. These are called antibodies.

How long does it take for a person to create antibodies?

It can take days or weeks for a person to develop antibodies.

How long do antibodies to COVID-19 last?

Researchers don’t know yet how long antibodies to COVID-19 last or whether they protect people from getting sick in the future.

High-quality antibody tests are now available to the public in Colorado at various locations throughout Colorado. Here, a lab manager works on tests at a UCHealth lab.
UCHealth labs are now doing both COVID-19 tests and antibody tests for members of the public. Photo by UCHealth.

Why should I get the COVID-19 test?

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 now, a nose-swab test may be able to determine if you are infected with COVID-19, the new coronavirus causing the pandemic. These signs include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Exhaustion
  • Body aches
  • Sudden loss of taste or smell

Why should I get an antibody test?

Antibody tests can tell you if you have been exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19. If you test positive and you have fully recovered from COVID-19, you might be able to donate convalescent plasma for the treatment of patients who are currently sick with COVID-19. .

Also, results from antibody tests might help medical experts understand how widely the new coronavirus has spread in communities.

But, it’s important to know that a positive test result to an antibody test does not mean you are safe (immune) from getting COVID-19 in the future. Researchers are still working to understand how protective these antibodies to COVID-19 may be.

If I get a positive test result from an antibody test, what does that mean?

Since COVID-19 is a new illness, medical experts are learning how COVID-19 antibodies work. If you get a positive test result, that means you probably were exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19.

Buta positive result does not mean you are immune or less likely to get COVID-19 in the future.

Even if your results from an antibody test are positive, you should continue to follow social distancing guidelines. These include:

  • Staying at least 6 feet away from people outside of your household.
  • Washing your hands often.
  • Wearing a mask in public.
  • Staying home if you are having any symptoms of COVID-19.

What if I get a positive result from a COVID-19 test?

If you learn that you have COVID-19, you should isolate yourself at home right away and contact your health care provider. You may be able to heal at home. But, you should get medical help right away if you are having serious problems like trouble breathing.

I heard antibody tests can be inaccurate. Is that true?

Yes, there are many commercial antibody tests found at drug stores, labs and at medical facilities. Many of these tests are not accurate and have not been authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

UCHealth is only offering tests that our medical experts have tested and verified. UCHealth COVID-19 tests are high-quality, accurate, FDA-authorized tests and far exceed current FDA authorization requirements.

What questions should I ask about antibody tests?

Be very careful about the type of antibody test you get and ask questions about the type of test you will be getting. UCHealth experts found that most antibody tests that only required a finger prick were not accurate. You will want an antibody test that:

  • Requires a full blood draw
  • Has been tested and proven to be accurate
  • Is authorized by the FDA

Where is UCHealth offering testing?

Currently, UCHealth is offering testing at these facilities.

antibody testing - check in at Memorial Hospital
Antibody tests are available to the public now at multiple sites along the Front Range, including UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central in Colorado Springs. Photo by Cary Vogrin for UCHealth.

How can I make an appointment to get a COVID-19 test, an antibody test or both?

Currently, test scheduling is done via My Health Connection, UCHealth’s patient portal.

Will my health insurance cover testing?

Many insurance providers will cover COVID-19 and antibody testing, but you should check on the details for your insurance plan. If you have not met the yearly deductible for your plan, you could be charged. And, for antibody testing, it’s also possible that the cost of the test itself may be covered, but that you will be charged for the blood draw.

Do I need to be a current UCHealth patient to get tested?

No. You are welcome to get tested even if you are not a current UCHealth patient. You will need to sign up for a My Health Connection account to schedule a test and get your results.

How long will it take to get my results back?

You will get your results within a few days. You might get your results sooner depending on where you get tested.

Will my test results be used for research?

Your test results are private. But researchers may use anonymous testing data to find how widely COVID-19 has spread throughout the community and to assist public health experts and government leaders as they try to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

How can I protect myself from getting COVID-19?

  • Wash your hands regularly.
  • Stay at least six feet away from people in public.
  • Stay home if you are sick.
  • Wearing a mask when appropriate.

If you need medical advice, please contact your provider.

About the author

Kati Blocker has always been driven to learn and explore the world around her. And every day, as a writer for UCHealth, Kati meets inspiring people, learns about life-saving technology, and gets to know the amazing people who are saving lives each day. Even better, she gets to share their stories with the world.

As a journalism major at the University of Wyoming, Kati wrote for her college newspaper. She also studied abroad in Swansea, Wales, while simultaneously writing for a Colorado metaphysical newspaper.

After college, Kati was a reporter for the Montrose Daily Press and the Telluride Watch, covering education and health care in rural Colorado, as well as city news and business.

When she's not writing, Kati is creating her own stories with her husband Joel and their two young children.