Pentagon will ask recovered COVID-19 service members to donate plasma

Plasma donations are part of a broader effort to fight the coronavirus, senior military leaders said.

Last Updated:
May 28, 2020 - 4:33pm

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The Pentagon is testing service members for COVID-19 antibodies, in the challenge to produce a vaccine by the first of next year, the nation's top uniformed military official said today.

Those who test positive may be asked to help others who are sick with the disease.

“We may want to ask you to stick your arm out and donate blood,” if you have recovered from COVID-19, said Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Donors will provide convalescent plasma, he said, referencing a type of therapy that is believed to jump-start sick peoples’ immune responses by injecting them with recuperative antibodies.

Milley made his remarks as part of a Thursday virtual town hall meeting, in which Pentagon senior leaders addressed questions from the military community about COVID-19.

Antibody tests currently are being given to critical “tier one” units, such as quick reaction forces, Milley said, and will expand to other units.

Concurrently, the leaders said in the panel, the Pentagon is working on therapeutics, and plans to have a vaccine ready by January 1, 2021.

“The military’s been on this now for several months,” said Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who said that the goal is to produce 300 million vaccine doses by the first of the year. 

Meanwhile, the leaders said, the Pentagon is considering reducing service members’ quarantine timelines. 

After meeting with White House Coronavirus Task Force experts Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx, Esper said, the Pentagon may reduce the standard quarantine from 14 days down to 10.

The average incubation period for COVID-19 is 5.6 days, Milley said, noting that a 10-day quarantine would be more than sufficient.


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