A woman who recovered from Covid-19 donates blood plasma on October 5, 2020 (AFP / Jamie Reina)

American Red Cross accepts plasma donations from Covid-19 vaccine recipients

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Social media posts claim that people who have received a Covid-19 shot are ineligible to donate plasma to the American Red Cross because the vaccine destroys antibodies -- an assertion the non-profit organization says is false.

“The American Red Cross says you cannot donate Blood Plasma if you’ve had the vaccine, because the vaccine wipes out the body’s natural antibodies,” a May 22, 2021 Facebook post says.

Screenshot of a Facebook post taken on May 26, 2021

More examples of the claim -- which is part of a torrent of inaccurate information about Covid-19 and vaccines circulating online -- appeared on Instagram here, here and here.

“In most cases, you can donate blood, platelets and plasma after a Covid-19 vaccine as long as you’re feeling healthy and well,” an American Red Cross spokeswoman told AFP. 

The organization’s website makes this clear. “As long as donors are symptom-free, feeling well and can provide the vaccine manufacturer’s name, there’s no waiting period required after receiving a Covid-19 vaccine currently authorized in the US,” it says.

And Dr Baia Lasky, American Red Cross medical director, said that “the claim that Covid-19 vaccines wipe out antibodies is false.”

Convalescent plasma

An Instagram video viewed more than 12,000 times made a similar inaccurate claim, saying that the Red Cross has barred the donation of convalescent plasma by people who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 because of how the shot affects antibodies.

“That plasma is made up of antibodies from people who have recovered from the virus, but the vaccine wipes out those antibodies, making the convalescent plasma ineffective in treating other Covid-19 patients,” a news anchor says in the video.

Screenshot taken May 26, 2021 of an Instagram video

While the newscaster is speaking, the chiron said: “RED CROSS NEEDS BLOOD DONORS BUT THOSE VACCINATED CANNOT DONATE PLASMA.”

Plasma is the liquid portion of the blood, while “convalescent plasma” refers to “plasma that contains high-levels of specific antibodies that might help fight a specific infection -- in this case Covid-19 antibodies,” according to the Red Cross website.

AFP conducted a reverse image search of a screenshot of the Instagram video and identified the speaker as Samantha Jones of KMOV4 in St. Louis, Missouri. 

The station told AFP that “the incorrect information has been updated on our website” and attributed the problem to a February 2021 comment from a representative of the American Red Cross, which said that a reporter misinterpreted its remarks.

The topic is also addressed on the American Red Cross website.

“There are claims circulating that incorrectly state that the Red Cross will not accept convalescent plasma donations from those who have received the Covid-19 vaccine because ‘the vaccine wipes out those antibodies making the convalescent plasma ineffective in treating other Covid-19 patients.’ This is not accurate,” its Q&A section reads.

Rather, it discontinued its Covid-19 convalescent plasma donations on March 26, 2021 “due to declining hospital demand and sufficient industry supply.”

The American Red Cross spokeswoman clarified that “the decline in demand is largely linked to the decline in overall cases in the US,” and said the industry supply was “sufficient” to meet hospital needs. 

US Food and Drug Administration guidelines permit vaccine recipients to donate convalescent plasma if they have recovered from the disease, indicating that the shot does not automatically disqualify people from donations.