Blood donation and transfusion save lives. Unfortunately, there’s also a long history of misinformation and fear around donations. For example, there was a time when blood donation was segregated by race. Additionally, in response to the AIDs epidemic, regulations were created that prohibited donations from parts of the LGBTQIA community.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the misinformation about blood donation has been about the vaccine and the virus itself. This misinformation isn’t causing the discriminatory practices of the past, but it is causing large numbers of people to refuse blood transfusions.
Many people have heard that it’s not safe to receive a blood transfusion from a vaccinated donor. Fortunately, this isn’t the case. A transfusion from a vaccinated donor carries no risk of infection and is completely safe. Read on to learn more about the safety of blood from vaccinated donors.
COVID-19 is an airborne virus. It can’t be transmitted by contact with the blood of someone who is infected. According to The
Similarly, the COVID-19 vaccine doesn’t transfer from a blood donor to a person who is receiving a transfusion. Transfusion safety goes beyond the knowledge that COVID-19 does not transfer through blood.
Two of the COVID-19 vaccines available in America, the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines, are a type of vaccine called a messenger RNA vaccine (mRNA). Inactivated vaccines don’t contain living viral material. This means that the vaccines can teach your body to fight the infection, but they can’t infect your bloodstream
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a type of vaccine called a viral vector vaccine.
A viral vector vaccine uses a modified and harmless version of a virus. You can’t get COVID-19 from the modified version of the COVID-19 virus in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The vaccine has enough viral material that it can teach your body how to fight COVID-19, but it has been changed enough that it will not cause an infection.
Blood contains red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and plasma. Plasma is the liquid portion of blood that remains after the platelets and red and white blood cells are removed.
Plasma is 90 percent water, but it also contains immune system proteins and antibodies. This includes the antibodies your body makes when it learns to fight a virus like COVID-19.
You need plasma to clot blood, fight infections, heal wounds, and more. Plasma transfusions are used during surgeries and medical treatments. They can help people with chronic diseases as well as those with burns, shock, or trauma.
During the pandemic, blood donation centers were collecting plasma from people who had recovered from COVID-19 or who had received the vaccine within the last 6 months. This blood was used for what’s called a convalescent blood transfusion.
This type of transfusion uses the immune system proteins, or antibodies, from someone whose body has already fought an infection to help someone currently battling that same infection. Transfusions from vaccinated people who meet certain conditions can also be used.
Now that vaccinations and improved treatments for COVID-19 are available, the Red Cross and other organizations are no longer seeking plasma for convalescent transfusions. However, vaccinated people are eligible to donate plasma.
Most blood donation centers only require that vaccinated people are symptom-free on the day of their donation. You can read more about plasma donation here.
Blood donations already undergo strict safety measures. Before each donation, donors are asked about their health to ensure they are eligible to donate.
There are a number of health conditions and circumstances that will cause most blood donation centers to decline a donation. For example, you generally can’t give blood if:
- you have an active infection
- you have any type of hepatitis or live with someone who does
- you’ve ever had or have ever been exposed to Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease
- you’ve been treated for malaria in the last 3 years or have been exposed to malaria in the past 3 months
- you’ve traveled to certain countries or areas recently
- you take certain medications
- you’ve recently gotten a tattoo
- you have certain viral conditions
These regulations help blood donation centers keep blood safe before the blood draw begins.
Blood donations from those who’ve received live vaccines
Blood donation centers also have rules about vaccines. People who’ve recently received live vaccines often need to wait several weeks before they are eligible to give blood. Common live vaccines include:
- mumps vaccine
- chickenpox vaccine
- shingles vaccine
Blood donations from those who’ve received inactivated vaccines
Vaccines such as the COVID-19 vaccine are inactivated virus vaccines. These vaccines don’t contain live viruses, and can’t transmit infections. That’s why there are no restrictions on blood donation after these vaccines.
Other inactivated viruses include:
- flu vaccine
- pneumonia vaccine
- HPV vaccine
- tetanus vaccine
Ensuring safety after donation
After each donation, blood is tested to determine the type, and is sorted into red blood cells, white blood cells, and plasma. A sample of your blood is also tested for infectious illnesses that can be transmitted by blood contact. These normally include:
- hepatitis B
- hepatitis C
- Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
- Human-T-Lymphotropic virus
- Zika Virus
- West Nile Virus
Any blood found to contain traces of these viruses will be discarded.
Can blood from a vaccinated donor or someone who has had COVID-19 provide immunity?
The COVID-19 vaccine won’t transfer during a blood donation. A blood donation isn’t an effective way to get a COVID-19 vaccine. The blood you receive during a transfusion only contains red blood cells. Red blood cells don’t contain any antibodies.
The antibodies your body makes that know how to fight COVID-19 after a vaccine are located in plasma. This means you’d need a plasma transfusion to receive COVID-19-fighting antibodies.
However, even a plasma transfusion is not a substitute for your own COVID-19 vaccine. Plasma transfusions are sometimes used to fight COVID-19, but they’re not meant to be used as a preventive measure.
The antibodies from blood transfusions or plasma transfusions from a vaccinated donor aren’t enough to provide COVID-19 immunity.
Is it OK to donate blood if you’ve been vaccinated? How long should I wait before I donate?
Yes. You can give blood if you’ve been vaccinated. There’s no waiting period.
Some donation centers do request that you know who manufactured the vaccine you received. In the United States, all vaccines are manufactured by Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, or Moderna. The name of your vaccine manufacturer is listed on your vaccine card.
Is it OK to donate blood if I’ve had a COVID-19 infection? How long should I wait before donating?
Yes. You can donate after recovering from a COVID-19 infection.
It’s a good idea to call the blood donating center and ask what their specific policy is. The American Red Cross requires that all donors have been symptom-free for at least 2 weeks before donating.
Do blood donation centers test donors for COVID-19?
No. However, blood donation centers will ask donors about their health and any current symptoms before accepting a donation. Additionally, donors will have their blood pressure, pulse, and temperature taken before a donation.
Any donor who is showing signs of infection or illness will not be allowed to donate blood.
Will I know whether I am getting blood from someone who has had the vaccine?
No. Blood from donors who’ve been vaccinated is not labeled. You won’t know if the blood you receive during a transfusion is from a vaccinated donor.
Receiving a blood transfusion from a donor who has been vaccinated for COVID-19 is safe. There is no risk of contracting COVID-19 from a blood transfusion.
COVID-19 isn’t transferred by blood contact, and the COVID-19 vaccine doesn’t contain any living virus components. It cannot cause infection in the vaccine recipient or in a blood transfusion recipient.
All donated blood is carefully tested for any infectious viral material that can be transmitted by blood contact before it’s used for transfusions.