For answers, we went to Fernando Martinez, M.D., a pathologist who serves as medical director of MD Anderson’s Transfusion Services and Donor Operations. Here’s what he had to say.
Can you donate blood if you’ve recently gotten a COVID-19 vaccine or a booster shot?
That depends on two things:
what type of COVID-19 vaccine or booster shot you received, and
how you’re feeling at the time of the donation.
If you received one of the FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines made by Pfizer, Moderna or Janssen/Johnson & Johnson, there’s no need to wait to donate blood or platelets, provided you’ve experienced no side effects. Some people experience COVID-19-like symptoms — such as fever, rash, or body aches — after being vaccinated. So, if you’re one of those individuals, you’ll need to wait.
That’s because feeling well and healthy is actually a prerequisite to donating blood at any time. In fact, it’s one of the very first things our screeners ask potential blood donors. The reason is that if you’re not feeling well, you could be fighting off any number of infections yourself. And you wouldn’t want to inadvertently pass one of those along to a cancer patient who’s already immunocompromised.
If you received any other type of COVID-19 vaccine or booster shot — meaning it hasn’t been granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) — then you’ll need to wait at least two full weeks before donating blood, and possibly more in some cases.
Check with MD Anderson Blood Bank at 713-792-7777 for details on your particular situation.
How long do I need to wait to donate blood if I’ve actually had COVID-19?
Again, that depends.
If you tested positive for COVID-19, but still have no symptoms, you’re eligible to donate blood 14 days after the positive test result.
If you tested positive for COVID-19 and have shown symptoms of infection, then you must wait to donate blood until you’ve been symptom-free for at least 14 days.
And, if you were hospitalized for COVID-19, that’s a totally different story. In that case, you may have received a COVID-19 treatment that will land you on the deferral list. For instance, if you got a blood transfusion or convalescent plasma, you will automatically be placed on the deferral list for a year.
But every patient is different, so the best way to find out if you’re eligible to donate is to call the MD Anderson Blood Bank at 713-792-7777.
Is it safe for donors to give blood right now, during this latest surge?
Absolutely. At MD Anderson Blood Bank, we have extensive infection control protocols in place, which in some cases exceed those recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Both donors and staff must wear surgical masks during the donation process, and social distancing is still maintained. Collection stations are separated by at least six feet. We also try to stagger our donors’ appointments, so the number of people in any given collection area at one time is minimal.