SOUTH CHINA SEA -- The US Army Medical Research and Development Command approved the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) as an authorized site to administer COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma (CCP), July 16.
CCP is the liquid part of blood collected from patients who recovered from a COVID-19 infection. Antibodies present in convalescent plasma are proteins that help patients fight an active infection; in this case, SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Anecdotal evidence suggests that CCP may be an effective treatment for some COVID-19 patients, but it has yet to be clinically proven.
Nimitz received 20 units of CCP from Naval Hospital Guam during a Safe Haven port visit in Guam, June 27. The CCP units Nimitz received are part of an effort by the Department of Defense (DOD) to collect plasma from COVID-19 patients who have successfully recovered from the illness.
“We are the first ship to get official approval of the protocol,” said Lt. Heather Hernandez, the ship’s nurse and member of the COVID Response Team aboard Nimitz. “We could administer plasma today if it was needed. We are following the Army’s protocol for administering plasma and have added an addendum to their protocol, so we are included. We have also tailored the protocol so it fits in with our capabilities on the ship.”
CCP will be available for treatment of COVID-positive patients in DOD treatment facilities and operating units who meet established criteria and in accordance with approved protocols.
“Our plasma was drawn from Sailors aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) who voluntarily donated their plasma as part of this program,” said Capt. Gilbert Seda, head of the COVID Response Team aboard Nimitz. “The plasma was checked for the presence of COVID antibodies and then underwent safety checks to ensure it was clean of any other viruses or infections.”
“If we believe a patient is acutely ill, we have the option of administering the plasma and enrolling them in this program,” said Hernandez. “It is optional for the patient to have the plasma administered, and there currently isn’t proof it will make them better.”
Hernandez said that Sailors who enroll in the program and receive CCP, will be enrolled in a 31-day study to track the effects of CCP and follow their recovery, even after they leave the ship.
“This is one treatment available in our repertoire of treatments,” said Seda. “There are a number of other treatments we will provide, and this will not interfere with any of those. Our priority is still to get these patients off the ship.”
Hernandez said the main goal on board Nimitz is prevention. Mitigation efforts to prevent the disease, including wearing face masks, social distancing, increased ship-wide cleaning, and a focus on handwashing, have all been implemented throughout the entire Nimitz strike group since April. No Sailors or Marines within the strike group have been diagnosed with COVID since departing on deployment.
USS Nimitz is the flagship of Nimitz Carrier Strike Group and is deployed conducting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts.