More than 600,000 people in Tricare, a health care program of the United States Department of Defense Military Health System, received emails July 17 asking if they would donate blood for research as “survivors of COVID-19.”
But just 31,000 people affiliated with the U.S. military have been officially diagnosed with the coronavirus, which prompted confusion, Military.com reported last week.
“Just wondering [if] anybody [got] an email from Tricare saying since you are a COVID survivor, please donate your plasma.?? I have NOT been tested,” wrote a beneficiary on Facebook. “Just remember all those people inputting data are human and make mistakes.”
The mass email went to every beneficiary located near a collection point.
“As a survivor of COVID-19, it’s safe to donate whole blood or blood plasma, and your donation could help other COVID-19 patients. Your plasma likely has antibodies (or proteins) present that might help fight the coronavirus infection. Currently, there is no cure for COVID-19. However, there is information that suggests plasma from COVID-19 survivors, like you, might help some patients recover more quickly from COVID-19,” the email said.
Six hours later, Humana issued a mea culpa, Military.com wrote.
“In an attempt to educate beneficiaries who live close to convalescent plasma donation centers about collection opportunities, you received an email incorrectly suggesting you were a COVID-19 survivor. You have not been identified as a COVID-19 survivor and we apologize for the error and any confusion it may have caused,” the company wrote.
Marvin Hill, Humana’s corporate communications lead, said the company apologizes “for the confusion caused by the original message,” which was sent to recipients based on their proximity to a plasma collection facility and not “on any medical information or diagnosis.”
“As a part of an effort to educate military beneficiaries about convalescent plasma donation opportunities, Humana was asked to assist our partner, the Defense Health Agency. Language used in email messages to approximately 600k beneficiaries gave the impression that we were attempting to reach only people who had tested positive for COVID-19. We quickly followed the initial email with a clear and accurate second message acknowledging this. We apologize,” Hill said in a statement sent to Military.com.