Wasps player donates at Coventry’s new Ricoh Arena donor centre for COVID-19 plasma trial

18 November 2020

NHS Blood and Transplant has opened the doors of its new plasma donation centre at Ricoh Arena in Coventry, and has issued an urgent call to anyone who has had COVID-19 to register as a donor. 

The arena is hope to Wasps and the club’s England international Brad Shields was amongst the first people to attend and donate plasma, after recovering from COVID himself.

He said: “I decided to donate because I tested positive for coronavirus and my antibodies could be used to help people and hopefully save lives. If there’s people out there that have had COVID and want to help out, I would encourage them to offer to donate.”

Plasma collected at the centre will be used in clinical trials to determine whether the antibody-rich blood plasma found in people who’ve had coronavirus – known as convalescent plasma – could be an effective treatment for COVID-19. 

The plasma is transfused into patients who are struggling to develop their own immune response. The antibodies could slow or stop the virus spreading, which could save lives. 

Around 65 people are already booked in to donate at the centre, which is located at Ricoh Arena. More than 10 people from Coventry have received plasma transfusions already.

There are already donor centres in Stoke, Gloucester and Birmingham. An extra pop-up plasma centre will also be opened at Wolverhampton before the end of the year.

Donations are urgently needed so that if the trials confirm patient benefit, plasma can be made readily available for general use in the NHS. You can register your interest in donating plasma online.

Anyone aged over 17 who has had COVID-19 can offer to donate blood plasma donor. Donating is easy - it takes just 45 minutes and the whole appointment, including time for snacks, lasts approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Professor Dave Roberts, NHSBT associate medical director for blood donation, said: “We would love to see people in Coventry and Warwickshire offering to donate so we can book them into donation appointments now. Donation is safe and easy, and you could save lives. Your body quickly replaces the antibodies afterwards.”

NHSBT especially needs more male and BAME donors to come forward as their plasma is more likely to contain the higher levels of antibodies required. People who needed hospital treatment are especially likely to have high antibody levels.

By the end of this year, there will be 42 plasma donation points across England so that 80% of potential donors can reach one within 45 minutes. 

Paul Michael, Commercial Director at Ricoh Arena, added: “We are extremely privileged to be able to play a part in the national effort to bring the coronavirus pandemic under control and save lives.

“We have already been assisting with a drive-through coronavirus testing centre for a number of months, and we look forward to extending our support further with the opening of the new plasma donation centre.”

If you’ve had confirmed coronavirus or the symptoms, you can volunteer today to donate plasma by completing our online form.