By Airman 1st Class Nicholas Faddis, 117th Air Refueling Wing, Public Affairs
/ Published August 18, 2020
Members of the 117th Air Refueling Wing participate in a blood drive at Sumpter Smith Joint National Guard Base, Alabama, Aug. 14, 2020. Blood drives like this supply blood to local hospitals in need. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Nicholas Faddis)
Members of the 117th Air Refueling Wing donate blood at Sumpter Smith Joint National Guard Base, Alabama, Aug. 14, 2020. The blood collected can be used for blood transfusions but some of the blood will be used to find COVID-19 antibodies in an effort to find a cure. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Jeremy Farson)
Members of the 117th Air Refueling Wing participate in a blood drive on Aug. 14, 2020 at Sumpter Smith JNGB, Ala.
The donated blood went to local blood banks and will be used for conventional purposes like blood transfusions but extra vials of blood were taken to test for COVID-19 antibodies. Angelita Robinson, collection specialist II for the American Red Cross, explained that she’s done thousands of blood drives in her 20 years with AMCROSS but testing for COVID-19 antibodies is a new step they have added.
“It's to check to see if a donor has the antibody,” Robinson said. “If a donor recovered from the Coronavirus they would have antibodies still in their blood systems.”
According to Robinson, having the antibodies in the bloodstream doesn’t mean a person currently has COVID-19.
“Any time a person has an illness or condition certain antibodies are built up in the blood,” she said. “A person who does have the antibodies will be wanted to donate plasma so they can develop some kind of vaccine.”
A donated unit of blood will be put in extra vials that go to a lab. Tests are conducted in labs using a plasma process for the antibodies which can be used in a vaccine. Even without testing of antibodies donated blood can help save a life.
“We still need blood for patients that are in the hospital like accident victims or people who need transfusions for surgeries,” Robinson said.