Kern County supervisors Leticia Perez and Mike Maggard teamed up with Houchin Community Blood Bank on Wednesday at the Kern County fairgrounds to promote the need for and importance of local convalescent plasma donations.
A convalescent plasma drive was held to encourage residents who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate their plasma. The plasma — which can be rich in COVID-19 antibodies — is used to treat people suffering from the virus to help alleviate symptoms and get them out of the hospital faster, according to Houchin CEO Brad Bryan.
“There have been approximately 300 to 400 people in our community that have donated their time and plasma,” Bryan said. “We’ve had about 1,400 donations from those people and those donations have been sent into our local hospitals.”
Maggard explained that he had been looking into plasma as a possible COVID-19 treatment method when he learned that a need for it existed in local hospitals. He said that rang the bell for him to bring additional awareness to the possible solution.
“I learned there were 20 outstanding orders for convalescent plasma,” Maggard said. “Twenty people that were suffering through the ravages of the disease without the help from convalescent plasma.”
Perez became aware of the treatment through personal experience, as her cousin was hospitalized with COVID-19. She said that convalescent plasma helped get her family member get out of the hospital in a day and a half.
“I don’t know the science of it, but I know what I experienced,” Perez said, referencing her cousin’s recovery. “Within a few hours (of receiving convalescent plasma), she was feeling better and her mood had lifted. She said to me, ‘I can’t explain it, but I just feel better.’”
Recently, there’s been mixed opinions on convalescent plasma’s effectiveness in combating COVID-19. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn apologized last week for overstating its life-saving benefits of treating when treating coronavirus, according to the Associated Press.
Bryan addressed studies that claim convalescent plasma has not been studied enough to prove a positive outcome for patients. He said he believes the likelihood of the plasma being effective is “significantly” higher than it not working.
“It’s difficult to have a controlled trial when one person is supposed to receive a placebo and the other gets convalescent plasma. If you’re in the hospital, you don’t want the control,” Bryan said. “I say that because most patients are refusing the control.”
“If there’s a shortness in a clinical trial report, it’s because we haven’t had the ability in this expedited emergency time to set up a clinical trial the normal way you’d set one up.”
Maggard echoed Bryan’s optimism in convalescent plasma’s effectiveness.
“Whatever you hear in the national news about whether or not convalescent plasma is effective, that’s just the bureaucracy of how studies are done,” Maggard said. “The doctors on the frontlines are confident that convalescent plasma is helping to save lives.”
Maggard added that Perez has been at the forefront of utilizing the county fairgrounds for a variety of COVID-19 solutions as well as precautions for the future in case the hospital system is overwhelmed. She explained her love for the fairgrounds and what they represent, and wants to make sure they’re properly utilized this year in the absence of the canceled Kern County Fair.
“Every year Kern County comes together on these grounds in a spirit of unity, I think it’s the unifying event of the year,” Perez said. “It really is heartbreaking not to have (the Kern County Fair) this year. I grew up every year waiting for this time of the year with the fair.”
Perez also encouraged people living in east Bakersfield to donate their plasma, as COVID-19 has had a large impact in that sector of the community.
“I encourage east Bakersfield (to donate), who we know is so inundated with this virus,” Perez said. “Please share your healing experience to the neighbors of this community to alleviate suffering and to get Kern County back open again and to get us back to doing things we love like the Kern County Fair.”
The first 100 plasma donors receive a 2021 Kern County Fair package with four fair passes and two parking passes. Donations can still be made at either Houchin’s Truxtun Donor Center or its Bolthouse center.