Blood donation is a simple act that can save lives. People may need blood when they have surgery, cancer treatment, or transfusions for blood loss from injuries or accidents. But only 3% of age-eligible people donate blood each year. So there’s always a demand for blood donation.
If you’re thinking about donating your blood but you just got the COVID-19 vaccine or are planning to get it soon, there are few things you need to keep in mind before you give.
Can I Donate Blood After Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine?
Yes. But there are some rules you’ll need to follow before you donate your blood after getting the jab. According to the eligibility guidelines set by the FDA, if you qualify to donate blood, in most cases, you can do it any time after you’ve had your COVID-19 vaccine.
But to be eligible, you’ll need to know and be able to give the name of your COVID-19 vaccine’s manufacturer. Approved manufacturers include AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Novavax, and Pfizer. You can donate as long as don't have symptoms of COVID-19 and feel well when you’re about to donate.
If you don’t know which company manufactured your vaccine, you’ll need to wait 2 weeks before you can donate blood.
Will Giving Blood Reduce My COVID-19 Antibodies?
No. Your body has about 10 pints of blood. When you donate blood, you only give about 1 pint. If you’ve had the COVID-19 vaccine, your antibody levels won’t go down after you give blood. Your immune system will quickly replace the antibodies.
What About Platelet and Plasma Donation?
Just as with blood donation, you don’t have to wait to give platelets or plasma after you’ve had your COVID-19 vaccine as long as you know the vaccine manufacturer.
Platelets are small, tiny cell fragments that form clots to stop you from bleeding. Every 15 seconds, someone in the United States needs platelets. But you can’t donate them at a blood drive because a special machine is used to remove just the platelets and return the remaining blood back to your body. The whole process may take 3 hours.
Plasma is a pale yellow liquid that carries your blood cells throughout your body. It’s taken from your arm, but it goes to a centrifuge machine that spins fast to separate plasma from the rest of the blood and then return the blood back to your body. The cycle is repeated a few times till enough plasma is collected.
If you’ve had COVID-19 and want to give convalescent plasma, the rules are a bit different. Convalescent plasma contains antibodies that your body builds after a viral infection to fight off the illness. The FDA has given emergency authorization for convalescent plasma therapy with high antibody levels to treat COVID-19. It’s usually given to hospitalized patients or people with weak immune systems.
But if you’ve had the COVID-19 vaccine, the FDA allows you to give convalescent plasma only within 6 months of your initial COVID-19 infection. To be eligible, you need have sufficient antibodies from the virus, not the vaccine. This is because the antibodies you develop from the viral infection are different from those you develop after you’ve had the vaccine.
If you’re not sure, call your local blood donation center to ask if you’re eligible to donate platelets, plasma, or convalescent plasma.
Safety Precautions to Keep in Mind
If you plan to donate blood, it’s important to know that there’s no risk of getting the COVID-19 infection from the procedure. But there are a few precautions you should keep in mind. Don’t donate if you have:
- Tested positive for COVID-19 with or without symptoms in the last 14 days
- Had to self-quarantine in the last 14 days
- Had COVID-19 symptoms in the last 14 days
If you have side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine, wait until they go away.
Contact your blood donation center if you develop COVID-19 symptoms after you’ve given blood. This will prevent the spread of infection.
Things to Know Before You Donate Blood
In order to donate whole blood, you’ll need to:
- Be in good health and feeling well.
- Be at least 16 years old in most states.
- Weigh at least 110 pounds. (This may vary based on your height.)
- Wait 56 days after each blood donation.
Eligibility requirements may differ if you want to donate only platelets or plasma. For example, you can donate platelets every 7 days for up to 24 times a year, and you need to be at least 17 years old.
In some cases, you can’t donate blood based on certain health issues or your travel history. Common reasons include:
- Having the flu or a cold or not feeling well on the day of the donation. Make another appointment after you’re feeling better.
- Taking certain prescription medications such as blood thinners. Most over-the-counter drugs are fine. If you’re not sure, ask your doctor.
- Having low iron levels.
- Traveling to or living in malaria-risk countries within a certain period of time before your donation. Check with your local blood donation center about when you’re next eligible.
If you’re planning to donate blood but you’re not sure if you’re healthy enough, ask your doctor. You can also contact blood drive centers like the American Red Cross at 800-RED CROSS to check if you’re eligible.