Can You Donate Blood After the COVID Vaccine? Here's What Experts Say

Wait times for donating blood after getting vaccinated can depend on which brand of vaccine you get

Bags ready for collection during a blood drive by the American Red Cross
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People who get vaccinated against coronavirus don't have to wait before donating blood in most cases, according to experts, but there are a few contingencies.

"The simple answer is, there is no waiting time between vaccination and donation," said Kim Cronin, manager of Massachusetts General Hospital's donor services.

This is "wonderful news" for donation centers, Cronin noted, as the entire nation experiences a blood shortage due to the pandemic. In the meantime, people have continued to need blood for surgeries, treatments, transplants and other life-threatening conditions.

"The past fourteen months have been quite challenging for those of us responsible for maintaining an adequate blood supply for patients in need," Cronin said. "Blood continues to be needed every day."

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued new guidance last month to address the "urgent need" for blood and the Red Cross of Massachusetts is already starting to see a decline in appointments across the board. CEO Holly Grant is imploring donors to give blood and platelets throughout the summer and fall.

“With more people getting vaccinated and starting to return to normal activities, the Red Cross is concerned about the impact that could have on blood donor turnout," Grant said. "Blood is a perishable product and the supply must be constantly refreshed so that hospitals always have what they need when they need it.”

Blood products have a short shelf life -- platelets expire five days after they have been donated and red blood cells last 45 days, according to the Red Cross.

Blood banks nationwide are in a precarious position this January, which is also National Blood Donor Month. What was typically a tough season for donations between the holidays and inclement winter weather is now compounded by the pandemic. That’s especially true in some of the hardest hit areas, like Southern California.

Most vaccinated people can donate blood and platelets without any deferral periods, as long as they're symptom-free and feeling well at the time. Blood donors will be asked for the name of the vaccine manufacturer in order to determine whether they're eligible.

Deferral times for donating blood after getting vaccinated depends on which brand of vaccine you get, according to the Red Cross. There is no wait time for otherwise eligible blood donors who get the most common vaccines including Moderna, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca and Novavax.

People who receive a live attenuated vaccine would need to wait 14 days, according to Dr. Gabriela Andujar Vazquez, medical director of the COVID-19 Vaccination Program at Tufts Medical Center.

"But since none of the U.S.-authorized COVID-19 vaccines are live-attenuated, it should not be an issue," Andujar Vazquez said, adding that none of the vaccines authorized by the World Health Organization were live either.

"I think they are just making a 'general statement' for all live attenuated vaccines," Andujar Vazquez said. “There are no issues with donating blood after receiving a U.S.-authorized COVID-19 vaccine."

Red Cross continues to test all donated blood, platelet and plasma donations for COVID-19 antibodies. The organization has not loosened any coronavirus safety protocols that have been in place, including mask requirements and temperature checks upon entry, even for those who have been fully vaccinated.

Anyone who donates during the month of May will be automatically entered for a chance to win a travel trailer camper, powered by Suburban Propane. Those who give May 1 through May 15 will also receive a $5 Amazon gift card by email. Terms and conditions are here.

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