REXBURG, Idaho - School officials at Brigham Young University-Idaho expressed concerns about students intentionally contracting the novel coronavirus in order to get paid for donating plasma that contains COVID-19 antibodies, according to an Oct. 12 statement from the university.
According to the statement, administrators believe that some students aimed to get infected in order to get paid for donating plasma that contains COVID-19 antibodies. The university announced plans to immediately suspend — and possibly even permanently dismiss — students intentionally exposing themselves and others to the virus.
“The contraction and spread of COVID-19 is not a light matter. Reckless disregard for health and safety will inevitably lead to additional illness and loss of life in our community,” the university said in a statement. “We urge all members of the campus community to act respectfully and responsibly by observing all public health and university protocols and placing the well-being of others above personal benefit or convenience.”
While recognizing that the ongoing pandemic has caused significant emotional, physical and financial stress for students, the university discouraged any action that puts the lives of students and faculty at risk.
“If students are struggling, BYU-Idaho stands ready to help. There is never a need to resort to behavior that endangers health or safety in order to make ends meet,” the statement read.
Rates vary by location, but according to one company, on average, a donor can earn up to $200 a month by donating plasma. Donors can donate twice in a seven-day period with at least 48 hours in between donations.
Grifols BIomat USA’s website has a specific page dedicated to COVID-19 survivors in an effort to collect convalescent plasma, which contains antibodies against the virus. Those who donate convalescent plasma will be rewarded $100 per visit, according to the company.
In August, President Donald Trump announced an emergency use authorization issued by the FDA for convalescent plasma from COVID-19 survivors as a treatment for people infected with the virus. While Mayo Clinic researchers reported a strong possibility of blood plasma from survivors helping in the recovery process, there was not yet conclusive evidence on the effectiveness of the treatment.
The Mayo Clinic reported preliminary data from 35,000 coronavirus patients treated with plasma, and said there were fewer deaths among people given plasma within three days of diagnosis, and also among those given plasma containing the highest levels of virus-fighting antibodies.
But it wasn’t a formal study. The patients were treated in different ways in hospitals around the country as part of an FDA program designed to speed access to the experimental therapy. That so-called “expanded access” program tracks what happens to the recipients, but it cannot prove the plasma — and not other care they received — was the real reason for improvement.
Administration officials, in an Aug. 23 call with reporters, discussed a benefit for patients who were within three days of admission to a hospital and were not on a respirator, and were given “high-titer” convalescent plasma containing higher concentrations of antibodies. They were then compared to similar patients who were given lower-titer plasma. The findings suggest deaths were 35% lower in the high-titer group.
There’s been little data on how effective it is or whether it must be administered fairly early in an illness to make a significant difference, said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious diseases expert at Vanderbilt University.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.