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Versiti Increases Access to Life-Saving Plasma for Milwaukee Communities at Greatest Risk with Support from Greater Milwaukee Foundation

Versiti Increases Access to Life-Saving Plasma for Milwaukee Communities at Greatest Risk with Support from Greater Milwaukee Foundation

October 23, 2020

With support from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Versiti is enhancing a key program aimed at fighting the COVID-19 pandemic by increasing access to COVID convalescent plasma in underserved Milwaukee communities. The Greater Milwaukee Foundation has awarded Versiti’s Blood Research Institute Foundation a $100,000 grant to help support Versiti’s initiative to test all blood donations for SARS CoV-2 antibodies. 

Identification of donors with SARS CoV-2 antibodies is an important part of the fight against COVID-19, as these donors are eligible for Versiti’s Convalescent Plasma Program in which donated plasma is used to treat patients fighting COVID-19, many of whom are from communities heavily impacted by coronavirus.

“As the fourth-largest independent supplier of blood products in the United States, Versiti serves a large and diverse population,” said Chris Miskel, Versiti president and CEO. “COVID-19 has impacted underserved communities at a disproportionate rate. Versiti’s Universal SARS CoV-2 antibody testing of blood donations is an important component to increasing access to life-saving treatments, and in turn, further supporting adversely affected communities.”

The Greater Milwaukee Foundation grant was recommended by leaders and experts in physical health serving on the MKE Civic Response Team, which the Foundation convened this spring and co-leads. This cross-sector coalition shares knowledge, aligns resources and coordinates advocacy in support of COVID-19 relief and long-term recovery efforts in the region.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated disparities long-present in our community, and we must take action to reverse the toll this is taking on the health and well-being of our families, friends, neighbors and co-workers,” said Ellen Gilligan, Greater Milwaukee Foundation president and CEO. “Supporting Versiti’s Convalescent Plasma Program is one way the Foundation is collaborating on solutions with the potential to produce positive impact for communities of color and others disproportionately affected by COVID-19.”  

The grant funds from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation will go toward additional testing equipment and labor costs associated with antibody testing in Versiti's Convalescent Plasma Program. 

When SARS CoV-2 antibodies are detected in a person’s blood, it indicates that the person has recovered from COVID-19, and the antibodies that helped the person fight off the initial infection can be collected in their convalescent (containing antibodies) plasma and used to help treat patients unable to fight the infection themselves. 

Versiti began collecting convalescent plasma very early in the pandemic, recognizing its therapeutic potential. Versiti is working with partner hospitals to identify recovered COVID-19 patients. Potential donors can call 1-866-702-HOPE (866-702-4673) to donate or they can visit Donors must have a documented positive lab test result for COVID-19 and be symptom-free for 14 days. 

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