Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and the impact on the blood supply

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Background

At the end of 2019 the World Health Organization (WHO) was notified of several cases of pneumonia in Wuhan, China, the cause of unknown cause.  A novel coronavirus was identified subsequently named “SARS-CoV-2” while the associated disease is referred to as COVID-19. On 11 March 2020, the WHO upgraded the status of the COVID-19 outbreak from epidemic to pandemic. 

Current position

We have assessed the blood safety risk from SARS-CoV2 as low and expect it to remain low. Internationally, other blood services have independently and unanimously arrived at the same conclusion.
We continue to very closely monitor blood product demand. Lifeblood appreciates the ongoing focus on appropriate usage of blood and blood products within hospitals and healthcare organisations, especially managing use of O RhD negative red cells.
Following patient blood management (PBM) principles remains important. For patients who are symptomatic, but not bleeding, transfuse a single unit then reassess. Each unit prescribed is an independent clinical decision and transfusion risks are dose dependent.
Want more information? Check out the Single Unit Transfusion Guide by the National Blood Authority on why and how to implement a single unit policy.
You can read more about the measures we are taking to keep the blood supply and our donor centres safe, and changes to our eligibility criteria, on the Lifeblood website where you will also find regularly updated FAQs.

Blood safety risk assessment

Respiratory viruses similar to SARS-CoV-2, such are SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, are not known to be transfusion-transmissible. Detection of the virus in the blood of patients with SARS-CoV-2 infection has been associated with severity of illness in unwell patients, usually critically ill; such individuals would not be eligible to donate blood. Our strict screening processes means we do not allow people who are unwell to donate blood. In Wuhan, comparatively early in the epidemic, four SARS-CoV-2 RNA positive donations were detected with nil further detections once mitigation measures such as isolating contacts and cases occurred. In addition, these detections were not confirmed as infectious virus, which is a requirement for transfusion-transmission to occur. Despite over 100 million infections worldwide, there are no confirmed reports of coronavirus including SARS-CoV-2 being transmitted by blood transfusion anywhere in the world. To reduce the number of people coming into contact with the virus and to decrease any theoretical risk of transfusion-transmission, we are asking donors who have returned from overseas and those who have been in close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 to wait 28 days before giving blood.

Convalescent plasma

Lifeblood started collecting convalescent plasma in May 2020, for the first time in Australia, in a bid to help the fight against COVID-19.
However, as at the 31 March 2021 Lifeblood made the decision to stop collecting convalescent plasma donations in Australia.
This decision was made based on the following information:
  • increasing international evidence of no benefit of the treatment for people in hospital with COVID-19
  • the limited use of the product in Australia due to the successful control of the pandemic
  • the limited number of available donors who continue to meet our antibody requirements, as most donors infections were now some time ago (again because of Australia’s great control)
  • safe and effective vaccines have been shown to result in a strong antibody response and if there was a role for passive antibody treatment, it is expected this could be made from vaccinated people.
We want to thank all everyone who has been involved in our convalescent plasma program such as South Eastern Area Laboratory Services (SEALS) and the Kirby Institute who stepped up and did our testing at short notice and our trial collaborators including the Australasian COVID-19 Trial (ASCOT) and the Randomised, Embedded, Multi-factorial, Adaptive Platform Trial for Community-Acquired Pneumonia (REMAP-CAP). However, most of all we wish to thank our generous donors.
If a future role for COVID-19 Immunoglobulin emerges, we will be ready to commence collections, hopefully from a large proportion of our donors who are or will be vaccinated against COVID-19.

 

Surveillance

Our Donor and Product Safety team is monitoring the situation on a daily basis and we are in regular contact with colleagues from international blood services.

Please remember to donate blood

There is an ongoing need for donations. Call 13 14 95 or visit Lifeblood's website or book a donation on the DonateBlood app.
Also important is to support and promote the need for blood donation through normal organisational communication channels. Even for those who can't donate, the good news is that they can still help! To spread the message like or share Lifeblood's social media pages.

Further updates

We will update this website regularly as the pandemic evolves.  

 

 Date: 2 June 2020