Giving blood is a simple and selfless act that can save lives, so if you're considering donating blood, you should already be proud of yourself. But giving blood during the COVID-19 pandemic raised some important questions, including whether it's OK to donate after you get the COVID-19 vaccine.
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The truth: It's an important time to donate blood, regardless of your vaccination status. Blood centers across the country reported declines in blood collections, according to an April 16, 2021 joint statement by the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB), America's Blood Centers, and the American Red Cross. At that time, some reported their lowest donor turnout in more than a year—a concerning reality given that patients and blood centers depend on this supply for life-saving treatments.
Here's what you need to know before booking your blood donation appointment after a COVID-19 vaccine—including the important information you need to keep handy if you plan on donating soon after your shot.
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Can You Donate Blood After Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine?
This is totally fine to do, according to the American Red Cross. There are a few things to know up front, though:
You'll need to provide the name of the manufacturer of the vaccine you received when you come in to donate.
There is no waiting period after you get the COVID-19 vaccine, as long as you're feeling OK.
The American Red Cross specifically states that you can donate blood whenever you want after you receive a vaccine made by AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Novavax, or Pfizer (FYI: Only three of those vaccines—J&J, Moderna, and Pfizer—are available in the US).
The organization also says that "eligible blood donors who received a live attenuated COVID-19 vaccine or do not know what type of COVID-19 vaccine they received must wait two weeks before giving blood." However, that's a little confusing since none of the COVID-19 vaccines available are live-attenuated vaccines (aka, vaccines made from a weakened form of the virus that causes the disease).
William Schaffner, MD, an infectious disease specialist and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, said this is most likely a blanket statement. It's a "very standard restriction" that applies to all kinds of vaccines before blood donation. Those live-attenuated vaccines they referenced likely refer to the ones in use against conditions like yellow fever, measles, and chickenpox. "But the number of adults to get that are very, very few," Dr. Schaffner told Health.
The bottom line here: Because there are no live-attenuated COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the US, you can donate blood as soon as you want after getting a vaccine, as long as you know which type you received. If you're unsure, you need to wait two weeks before a blood donation.
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Can You Donate Blood if You're Having Side Effects From the COVID-19 Vaccine?
Nope. The American Red Cross specifically says that you must be symptom-free and feeling well at the time you donate.
If you have a donation appointment scheduled and you happen to get your COVID-19 vaccine right beforehand, it's not a bad idea to push back your donation, just in case, infectious disease expert Amesh A. Adalja, MD, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told Health. "I would recommend waiting,"said Dr. Adalja. "The fatigue you might get from the vaccine could be compounded by giving blood." Also, if you do have other side effects, you'll need to reschedule.
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Can Vaccinated Blood Help Those With COVID-19 or Give the Recipient Antibodies?
It's not entirely clear right now if you could pass on antibodies to someone that receives your blood. "The likelihood is that you would give some passive protection," said Dr. Schaffner. "But how much is undetermined."
Keep in mind, too, that the blood someone receives from you will be diluted by their current blood volume. "It won't offer the same protection as if they got the vaccine," added Dr. Schaffner.
Your blood could potentially help those who are immunocompromised and battling COVID-19. In a March 2022 statement, the American Red Cross said that it is testing all blood donations for COVID-19 antibodies. And, if you have those antibodies, plasma from your blood may be used as a convalescent plasma treatment for COVID-19 patients.
Here's the thing: It's unlikely that you'll have those antibodies if you were just vaccinated. Instead, it can take up to two weeks after your second shot (in a two-shot series) for your body to develop them.
If you're feeling good after your COVID-19 vaccination and know the specific vaccine you received, or if it's been two weeks since your second dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or your only dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, it's totally fine—recommended, even—to consider giving blood. To find a blood drive near you, visit the American Red Cross donation page.
The information in this story is accurate as of press time. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, it's possible that some data have changed since publication. While Health is trying to keep our stories as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations for their own communities by using the CDC, WHO, and their local public health department as resources.