Aussie plasma donors needed for ‘medical miracle’
Australian Red Cross Lifeblood is calling for 1600 people to donate plasma every day this month, as patient need for the life-saving blood product reaches record levels.
Australia is one of the world’s largest users of plasma medicines, with thousands of people relying on them to treat life-threatening conditions every day.
Despite Australians donating more plasma than ever before throughout the pandemic, the need for new plasma donors has never been greater.
Stuart Chesneau, who oversees Lifeblood’s plasma program, said more than 815,000 plasma donations have been made in the past year, but thousands more were needed.
“Depending on what is needed most by patients, we may ask our donors to switch their donation to blood or plasma. During the pandemic, many plasma donors were asked to make whole blood donations to help meet the highest demand for red cells in nearly a decade.
“As well as the need for whole blood, we need to ensure continued levels of plasma to meet the needs of Australian patients.”
Mr Chesneau said plasma was considered a modern medical miracle, because it is often the last line of defence for many health conditions.
“Plasma-derived medicines are used to treat more than 50 serious medical conditions,” he said.
“Just one of these medicines, immunoglobulin (Ig), is needed by more than 13,300 Australians every month to treat acute or ongoing conditions to maintain their quality of life.
“It can take up to 15 plasma donations to make a single dose of some plasma medicines.
“In addition to the large number of medical conditions plasma is used to treat, every Australian who has had a post-exposure tetanus injection or chicken pox injection, along with every pregnant woman who receives Anti-D injections may not even realise they are plasma recipients.”
With more than half of all donations needed in Australia now being plasma donations, Lifeblood is today launching a new initiative as part of International Plasma Awareness Week, which runs until October 7.
Throughout the month of October, donors will be offered a free temporary blood type tattoo with every donation to address a misperception that tattoos are a barrier to donating blood.
“A Lifeblood survey found more than 15% of Australians believe you can’t donate if you’ve had a tattoo,” Mr Chesneau said.
“One in four Aussies has a tattoo, and we want to let them all know that being inked doesn’t disqualify them from donating blood and plasma. In fact, you can donate plasma straightaway.”
Immune Deficiencies Foundation Australia CEO Carolyn Dews said thousands of its members rely on the generosity and commitment of plasma donors to remain healthy.
“Plasma provides them with protection as it contains disease-fighting antibodies that help to protect against a range of infections.
“Every year it takes on average 130 plasma donations to treat one person with a primary immunodeficiency, and one in 1,000 people are estimated to be impacted by primary immunodeficiencies.
“The demand for plasma derived products continues to increase, in the last year we’ve seen numbers grow by 13%, indicating that there are more and more Australians being diagnosed with an immunodeficiency and needing plasma.”