WHO guidance on blood supply safety during COVID-19

On 10 July, the World Health Organisation (WHO) published an interim guidance on maintaining a safe and adequate blood supply during the COVID-19 crisis. The document expands on the interim guidance of 20 March regarding management of blood supply in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, and provides more recent recommendations on donor deferral, post-donation illness reporting and the collection of COVID-19 convalescent plasma. 

The WHO’s stance on the therapeutic properties of COVID-19 convalescent plasma strongly resonates with the European Commission's determination to develop therapeutics that combat the virus as means of ensuring health preparedness for possible future outbreaks. EU endeavours to promote convalescent plasma have been clearly demonstrated through the grant procured from the European Support Instrument (ESI), which aimed at spurring an influx of investment in plasmapheresis equipment across Member States.  

The relevance of convalescent plasma as an experimental therapy has been significant, particularly in light of EMA predictions stating that vaccines may take at least till the beginning of 2021 to be readily administered. Such therapy may be instrumental in the phase following vaccine availability, due to the expressed concerns shown by EMA head Guido Rasi about population hesitancy to get vaccinated in the first place.  

However, it is still worth noting that the EU is heavily dependent on plasma imports from 3rd countries, mainly from the US, with the situation being increasingly exacerbated by the visible blood and blood component shortages brought about by the pandemic. This point was indirectly reiterated in the interim guidance, wherein WHO appealed to governmental authorities to identify blood collection as an essential service and adapt movement-restricting mechanisms to account for willing blood donors. 

You can access the interim guidance here.

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