Doctor giving a senior woman a vaccination.
Doctor giving a senior woman a vaccination. Virus protection. COVID-2019.

COVID Vaccines and Blood Donations: What You Need to Know

by Melissa LaScaleia

As the Coronavirus vaccine becomes more readily available to everyone across the state, the American Red Cross is receiving many queries about blood donation eligibility. 

“One of the most frequent questions we are getting from donors is: ‘Am I eligible to give blood if I’ve gotten the vaccine?’” says Ben Williamson, regional communications director for American Red Cross, Palmetto SC Region. “In most cases, there is no blood donation deferral time— meaning yes you can give.” 

American Red Cross requests donors to know the manufacturer of the vaccination they received— be it Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson and Johnson, etc. Verbal knowledge is acceptable.  

“We are asking that donors know the manufacturer because there were some people in the early vaccine tests who may have received a vaccine that was not FDA approved,” Ben says. “We simply need to make sure that when you give, you’ve gotten one of those FDA approved vaccines.” 

If you do not know the vaccine that you got, were a part of an early test group, or received an alternate vaccine, American Red Cross will defer your donation for two weeks from the time that you show up at a Red Cross donation station. 

“We can only collect blood from healthy individuals, and need to give anybody who doesn’t know what they received fourteen days to make sure that they are feeling healthy and well,” Ben explains. “Even if you do know the manufacturer of the vaccination you received, a lot of people have had side effects from the vaccine, like aches and pains. If you have those side effects, we need you to be feeling healthy and well for fourteen days before you can give blood.” 

The second most common question they receive is, “If I give blood, does that impact the efficacy of the vaccine that I got? Does it weaken the vaccine?” 

The answer is, no. 

“Donating blood after receiving a Covid-19 vaccine does not reduce a donor’s protection from the virus,” says Ben. 

The vaccine is designed to generate an immune response to help protect an individual from illness; and a donor’s immune response is in no way impacted by giving blood. Receiving a Covid vaccine is just like receiving one for measles, mumps, or the flu. The SC Department of Health and Environmental Safety, the organization in charge of vaccine rollouts in SC, has corroborated this information. 

Since the beginning of March 2021, up until the publication of this article in mid-May, Red Cross has seen a 10-15% decrease in blood donations. They need more people to donate life-saving blood. 

“We are certainly getting a lot of questions from donors regarding eligibility and efficacy of giving blood,” Ben says. “And we want people to know that they can give and we need them to give. There’s a lot of attention right now on making a vaccine appointment; we hope people will make an appointment to give blood too. We need blood; we will always need blood. 

“Mothers are still giving birth, surgeries are still happening, children have diseases like cancer and require blood transfusions as part of their treatment.” 

Red Cross wants to reassure the public that they are still following the CDC guidelines about masks, social distancing, and screening for Covid at all of their blood drives. Even if you have the vaccine, they are still required to follow these procedures. 

“Blood remains an essential service in SC,” Ben adds. “And we can’t get it anywhere other than volunteer donors. If you can consider giving, it’s a huge help and makes a huge difference. It doesn’t take more than an hour of your time. There’s ample locations and appointment slots. It’s a simple thing that makes a really big difference. We had a lot of support last year, and we want to continue that momentum. It’s a unique way to give back, and most people are eligible.”

American Red Cross Blood Donation Drive

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