LEWISTON — Not only is the BPL Plasma donation center in Lewiston open during the coronavirus pandemic, the collection of blood plasma could be more important than ever as the world tries to combat the COVID-19 virus. 

“We need help getting the word out that BPL Plasma is a Critical Infrastructure Industry, open to collect plasma,” said Kimberly Staples, center manager for BPL Plasma’s facility at 239 Main St. “Our work is essential, and people’s lives literally depend upon our ability to keep our doors open and our centers operational.” 

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has given BPL Plasma the “critical” designation, “due to the nature of our business and the lifesaving uses of our plasma,” Staples said. 

BPL Plasma’s parent company, BPL Group based in England, earlier this month joined an alliance of plasma companies across the world that is seeking “to develop a potential plasma-derived therapy for treating COVID-19,” according to a news release from the alliance on April 6. 

The alliance is named the CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance. The “I” and “g” in CoVIg-19 stand for immune globulin. The alliance is one of a few groups working with the federal Food and Drug Administration to try and collect convalescent plasma from people who have recovered from COVID-19. The American Red Cross is also among the groups the FDA is working with. 

“Developing a hyperimmune will require plasma donation from many individuals who have fully recovered from COVID-19, and whose blood contains antibodies that can fight the novel coronavirus,” the alliance said in a news release.

“Similar to other specialty plasma programs we run in many centers, you should recognize that hyperimmune or convalescent plasma could play an important role in improving the survivability of those who become infected with COVID-19,” said Staples, noting that similar methods have been used to successfully treat a variety of diseases, such as smallpox, tetanus, anthrax, hepatitis B, and rabies. 

BPL Plasma’s Lewiston location recently began participating in the collection of COVID-19 convalescent plasma. 

“Our hope is that through these efforts and the generosity of the donors, we will hasten the development of a treatment,” Staples said. “We are very excited about the potential of these programs and proud of BPL Plasma’s participation in fighting this devastating virus.” 

Interested donors can find more information on BPL Plasma’s website. 

A shipment of supplies was delivered to BPL Plasma at 239 Main St. in Lewiston in 2018. Sun Journal file photo

Staples stressed the importance of plasma donation beyond just combating coronavirus. 

“Plasma shortages will have dire consequences to the millions of people worldwide who depend on a steady supply of plasma-based therapies — expectant mothers, hemophiliacs, immunosuppressed individuals, burn victims, and patients recovering from COVID-19,” Staples said. 

While still open, BPL Plasma has put measures in place at its locations to ensure the safety and wellness of donors and employees. 

“To help mitigate the spread of the virus, BPL Plasma has implemented temperature screening stations and social distancing,” Staples said. “Anyone — employees and donors — with a temperature above 99.6 degrees will not be allowed to remain in the center.” 

The 6-foot distancing rule has been put in place all throughout the center. From proper spacing between donor beds, to marks on the floors to ensure 6 feet between donors while waiting for a donation screening and for an open bed. 

“When the center can no longer accommodate donors with proper spacing, donors will be asked to wait in their vehicles or outside of the center while maintaining the 6-foot spacing,” Staples said. 

As BPL Plasma is looking to the community for plasma donation, the center in turn wanted to help the community “during a time in need,” Staples said, “and donated six cases of gloves as well as three cases of disposable lab coats to St. Mary’s Regional hospital.” 

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