In addition to the novel coronavirus, there is another plague affecting the world population: misinformation. Fear about the virus has caused people all over the world to spread false and misleading information around the web, which is causing mass confusion. Unfortunately, issues surrounding health are amongst the hardest hit by this misinformation wave, so many patients are mistrustful and unsure of providers, services, treatments and more.
This circumstance is made even worse by the fact that we are suffering from a global blood shortage. Healthcare facilities are in desperate need of donor blood, but because of the widespread uncertainty resulting from the pandemic, many would-be donors are choosing not to contribute.
Are Blood Donors at Risk of Contracting Coronavirus?
COVID-19 is a respiratory virus, which infects sufferers by entering the body through the mouth or nose. Generally, respiratory viruses are not transmitted via blood transfusion, and as yet, there are no cases of COVID-19 linked to donor blood or any blood products.
What’s more, blood donors are not receiving blood, and they are usually not venturing into areas with active coronavirus transmission. Rather, the risk of contracting a COVID-19 infection is likely less within a blood donation facility than in other public spaces, as many precautions are taken to keep the facility sterile and safe for donors.
What Precautions Are Donation Centers Taking to Reduce Spread?
Most supplies used during the donation process are single-use, and all shared equipment — like seats and machines — are thoroughly sterilized between appointments. Donors and providers have access to sinks and sanitizing stations to keep their hands free of disease. All spaces to which donors have access are regularly cleaned, and donation appointments are spaced to prevent these areas from becoming crowded. Finally, most blood donation facilities require staff to be fully vaccinated and/or wear face masks, especially while interacting with donors. All these precautions should prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Does the Development of COVID Variants Increase Donor Risk?
While COVID variants might seem threatening, they shouldn’t be any special concern for blood donors. The precautions taken to keep donors safe from coronavirus and other diseases will thwart transmission of any variants.
Can Blood Donors Receive the COVID Vaccine?
Those who have received a COVID vaccine are still eligible to donate blood. In fact, recipients of FDA-approved vaccines — such as Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson — do not need to wait before donating blood, unless they are suffering symptoms from the vaccination. As soon as a vaccinated individual feels well enough, they are welcome to give a blood donation. In contrast, anyone participating in a vaccine clinical trial should wait 56 days, or eight weeks, before offering another blood donation.
What if Blood Donors Have Prior COVID Infections?
It should go without saying that anyone with an active COVID infection should not donate blood; in fact, they should stay at home in quarantine for at least 10 days. A blood donor should be symptom-free for at least 28 days, or four weeks, before offering a blood donation. Those exposed to a COVID infected person should defer 14 days before donating blood to ensure that an infection doesn’t develop.
Any donors who discover a COVID-positive status or COVID exposure after their donation should contact their donation facility’s post-donation callback line to determine whether their donation should be recalled for potential COVID contamination.
Is Blood Tested for Coronavirus Antibodies?
During the initial months of the pandemic, blood donations were rigorously tested to identify evidence of the virus in the blood or to verify the presence of COVID antibodies. However, since we understand more about how the SARS-CoV-2 virus is transmitted and its lifecycle within the body, we no longer need to check blood samples with such intensity. Most blood donation facilities do not test all donations for antibodies, but donors can better understand their facility’s testing procedures by asking during their visit.
Blood donation is at an extreme low, but the need for donated blood continues to increase. Though the COVID pandemic endures, there is little reason for an ongoing blood shortage. Blood donors can fight COVID-related misinformation and the ongoing blood shortage with consistent donations at a local facility.