Is the American Red Cross refusing blood donations from individuals vaccinated against COVID-19?

By February 29, 2024 COVID-19, Health, Vaccine

We came across several posts on X circulating the claim that the American Red Cross (ARC) is refusing donations from individuals who have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Some posts also included screenshots of a questionnaire attributed to ARC where prospective donors are prompted to indicate whether they have received a COVID-19 vaccine. According to these posts, those who have indicated that they have received the vaccination are requested to contact ARC to determine if they are eligible to donate.

This claim might sound alarming to Singaporeans, who just last month were alerted by the Health Sciences Authority and Singapore Red Cross that the national group O blood stocks were at critically low supply. The group O blood stocks subsequently returned to healthy levels after over 5000 donors came forward after outreach efforts were circulated in local mainstream media outlets.

With almost 92% of Singapore’s population having received at least 1 dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, the claim that vaccinated individuals may not be eligible to donate their blood may falsely mislead potential donors, which could trigger more confusion, alarm and anxiety around the supply in our national blood bank.


Does ARC query potential blood donors on their COVID vaccination status?

The screenshots in the X posts were taken from ARC’s online system called RapidPass, that allows potential donors to read pre-donation materials and answer an health history questionnaire on the day of donation, before they arrive at the blood drive.

Through our research, we understand that the questionnaire does include a query on whether a potential donor is vaccinated against COVID-19.

However, according to ARC, RapidPass is unable to automatically determine the eligibility of potential blood donors. Therefore, it advises potential donors to contact the organisation directly to obtain detailed information on the eligibility criteria.


Are individuals vaccinated against COVID-19 ineligible to donate blood?

Image credit: American Red Cross

ARC has clarified that potential donors who are vaccinated against COVID-19 are eligible to donate their blood.

Potential donors are also asked to state the name of the manufacturer of their COVID-19 vaccine for ARC to confirm that the vaccine has been approved by the American Food and Drug Administration. Individuals who are unable to recall the name of the manufacturer are advised to wait at least 2 weeks after their vaccination before donating blood.

As individuals who receive live attenuated COVID-19 vaccines – ones which contain a weakened form of the virus that causes a disease – might pass the virus through blood donations if done shortly after their vaccination, the wait period is an additional safeguard to ensure that the COVID-19 virus is not present in the donated blood.

However, there is no live attenuated COVID-19 vaccine that is presently FDA-approved. The more commonly administered COVID-19 vaccines are mRNA vaccines such as Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which do not contain the live virus.

Moreover, ARC highlighted that the FDA allows individuals who feel well after their COVID-19 vaccine to donate blood with no wait period if the vaccine that was administered has been approved for use in the USA by the agency.

Hence, the claim that the American Red Cross is refusing blood donations from individuals vaccinated against COVID-19 is false.

Singapore also has similar guidelines for donors to wait between 1-4 weeks between their COVID-19 vaccine and blood donation, depending on the type of vaccine, whether donors experience any side effects after their vaccination and the severity of their side effects.


“Pureblood” movement

The claims about agencies denying vaccinated individuals from donating blood still appear to be circulating even after ARC has clarified the eligibility requirements.

The claims also seem to be fuelled by the “pure blood” movement, which although sounds like a reference to a Harry Potter novel or movie, is a movement based on anti-vaxx sentiments where vaccine sceptics push unsubstantiated claims that receiving blood from an individual vaccinated against COVID-19 will “contaminate” one’s body.

However, these “pure blood” sentiments are based on misinformation rather than scientific evidence. To date, there is no evidence that vaccines can be transmitted through blood transfusions, and receiving blood from a vaccinated donor would not vaccinate an unvaccinated donee.

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