NZ Blood Service desperately asking thousands of Kiwis to give plasma as demand spikes

Kiwis are being called on to donate blood plasma after a huge surge in demand.

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Immune deficient patients are one of the groups with the greatest need for plasma. Source: 1 NEWS

Immune-deficient patients have one of the greatest needs for plasma, with some requiring weekly infusions.

One of them is Josh Baxter - he was born with severe combined immune deficiency.

"Essentially, I was born without T or B cells, which are kind of the two main cells in your blood that make up your immune system," Baxter said.

He relies on a product called Evogam, which is made from human plasma.

"Without it, I wouldn't be here - the plasma replaces the cells that I don't have or don't have the ability to produce, and replaces my non-existent immune system. I receive it weekly and will be receiving it weekly for the rest of my life."

Josh self-administers the product by an injection into his leg - he's one of thousand of Kiwis who need plasma products regularly - but the New Zealand Blood service says supplies are getting low.

"Right now we've got 12,000 amazing donors around the country who give plasma, but in order to meet the demand we're facing, we need to find 7,000 more donors by July next year," Asuka Burge of the NZ Blood Service said.

The need for plasma donations increased by 45 per cent between 2015-2019 and continues to increase by 12 per cent every year.

"Last year we needed to collect 77,000 units of plasma, this year that's grown up to 115 thousand," Burge said.

"The reason for that is there's been an increase in what's called immunoglobulin products, so those are plasma products which are given to people with immune deficiencies, for example.

"They can't make antibodies themselves but the plasma has antibodies in it, so it basically gives them the chance to fight infection for themselves, and more and more people, as they get diagnosed, they need it on a regular basis - and that's why the demand is increasing."

The Blood Service says New Zealand will soon require more plasma donations than whole blood donations.

"It's incredible the amount of plasma that we need now, we really want to be self-reliant in New Zealand, we do import a little bit of plasma product but we really want to have that plasma donated by Kiwis for Kiwis and that's why we're really calling out and asking people to sign up to become plasma donors.

For Josh Baxter, he says his life would look very different without plasma.

"I'd be very sick, I'd have to isolate myself, I wouldn't be able to do things that normal people do like I do now."

And he has a message for New Zealanders

"I'd like to say thank you to the people that already do [donate], and for the people that don't, or might be thinking about it, it really means a lot to people like me.

"While you might not get to see where it goes, for someone like me, it's allowed me to live a normal life - it's pretty amazing that people do it, it's the gift that keeps on giving, I guess."

Kiwis can register to be plasma donors here.