‘Vaccines have no effect on donated blood’

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With blood stocks at a critical low, South Africans in need of blood transfusions might find themselves in a dire situation.

According to the Medical Director at the South African National Blood Service (SANBS), Dr Karin van den Berg, the short blood supply might be because blood donors are unsure if they can continue to donate blood if they have been vaccinated.

“The same question may also be asked if someone has recently recovered from Covid-19. The other issue that has come to the fore is whether someone can be considered to be vaccinated if they receive blood from someone who is vaccinated.

“However, blood donations and transfusions remain safe, even if you had been vaccinated or if you had previously been infected with Covid-19. Furthermore, receiving blood from a vaccinated donor does not affect the vaccination status of an unvaccinated individual,” said Van den Berg.

The SANBS is currently below the 5-day supply recommended by the World Health Organisation. To be able to fully meet demand across the country, a minimum of 3500 units of blood need to be donated daily to keep up with the 810,000 transfusions given annually in South Africa.

Advisor to The Solidarity Fund, Dr Saul Johnson, reinforced that, unlike HIV, the contents of a vaccine cannot be transmitted through blood or blood products. The Coronavirus, instead, is transmitted through saliva droplets.

“It is not possible to pass on the vaccine to someone who has received your blood donation because once the vaccine has stimulated the immune response, it breaks down and does not remain in your body. This generally happens about two or three days after receiving the vaccine. You can therefore donate and receive blood safely.

“Donors who have previously been infected with Covid-19 can also continue to donate blood safely.  According to all the information that is currently available, you will not pass on the infection to a recipient of your donated blood because the virus is no longer active once you are no longer infectious.

“People can also rest assured that their immunity against Covid-19 is not affected if they donate blood once they have been vaccinated. It is however not advisable to donate blood if you are currently fighting the infection, or showing any symptoms of infection,” said Johnson.