Claims of ban on Covid vaccinated blood donors are false

  • Published on February 23, 2024 at 23:02
  • 4 min read
  • By AFP USA
Far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and numerous social media users are misrepresenting American Red Cross disclosure requirements to falsely claim Covid-19 vaccinated people "may be ineligible to give blood." While US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines require a short waiting period after certain inoculations, those who receive approved coronavirus shots are eligible to donate blood.

"COVID Vaxxed May Be Ineligible To Give Blood, Says Red Cross," is the title of a February 20, 2024 article and video posted on Jones's InfoWars website.

Collage of posts on X created February 23, 2024

Public figures such as self-described Canadian "conspiracy theorist" Liz Churchill and US presidential candidate Robert F Kennedy Jr have shared similar claims to their hundreds of thousands of followers on X, formerly Twitter.

Jones, who in 2022 was ordered to pay nearly $1.5 billion in damages for calling the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school massacre a "hoax," has repeatedly and baselessly cast doubt on the safety and efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines, which more than 80 percent of Americans have received (archived here).

The InfoWars founder's latest claim is similarly inaccurate. 

Like all blood collectors in the United States, the Red Cross has followed FDA eligibility guidelines since the Covid-19 vaccine rollout (archived here and here).

"The FDA requires varying wait times to donate blood depending on the vaccine. This includes wait times that can vary from two to four weeks for a number of vaccines including but not limited to measles, mumps and rubella, chicken pox, shingles, polio, yellow fever, hepatitis B, and others," the nonprofit humanitarian group told AFP in a February 21, 2024 email.

"Due to this, the Red Cross and all blood collectors ask each potential donor about a history of vaccination to determine eligibility."

Querying vaccination status

The screenshots shared on social media show the Red Cross RapidPass form (archived here), which seeks to confirm the eligibility (archived here) of prospective donors by asking questions about their medical history, recent travels and vaccinations.

As of February 23, one of the questions specifically pertained to Covid-19 shots.

"Have you EVER had a Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine?" the form asks. "If you answer 'YES' to this question, please call ... before coming in to donate to determine if this will affect your eligibility."

Screenshot of the RapidPass form on the Red Cross website taken February 23, 2024

The questionnaire includes similar phrasing for other vaccines, including smallpox.

Screenshot of the RapidPass form on the Red Cross website taken February 23, 2024

"The FDA permits individuals to donate blood with no wait period after receiving a Covid-19 vaccine as long as they are feeling well and symptom-free, and the vaccine they received is one approved by the FDA for use in the US," the Red Cross told AFP.

Waiting period 

While FDA guidelines say people who receive a "nonreplicating, inactivated, or mRNA-based" Covid-19 vaccine can donate blood without time restrictions, the agency does advise waiting about two weeks after inoculation with live-attenuated vaccines (archived here).

Such shots use a weakened form of a pathogen to elicit an immune response. They protect against a variety of illnesses, including yellow fever and measles.

"There is a small risk of passing vaccine virus to others following vaccination with certain live-attenuated, viral and bacterial vaccines," said Katrine Wallace, an adjunct assistant professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago's School of Public Health.

"Because of this, blood banks recommend you wait (wait times vary per vaccine type) before donating blood following vaccination."

The FDA had not approved any live-attenuated Covid-19 vaccines as of February 23 (archived here), but at least one clinical trial is under way.

If a donor cannot provide the name of their Covid-19 vaccine manufacturer, the Red Cross said they are asked to wait two weeks after vaccination to give blood.

"It's important to point out donations from those who have been vaccinated for Covid-19 are safe for transfusion," the group said, adding that it has seen an uptick in questions at its call center about "unvaccinated" and "vaccinated" blood supplies.

While no ban exists for vaccinated blood donors, the Red Cross does have limits for some groups.

"If they report having a new sexual partner or more than one sexual partner in the past three months, they would be asked if they had anal sex in the past three months," the Red Cross says on its website (archived here). "If the answer to the last question is yes, they would then be asked to defer their blood donation."

A person who has HIV or AIDS should also not donate blood, the agency says (archived here).

More of AFP's reporting on vaccine misinformation and blood donations is available here and here.

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