Do You Have To Wait To Donate Blood After Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine?

The American Red Cross told Snopes it had received multiple inquiries from concerned would-be donors who had received a COVID-19 vaccine.

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Claim

As of April 2021, U.S. COVID-19 vaccine recipients were obliged to wait before donating blood.

Rating

Mostly False
Mostly False
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What's True

As of April 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advised that individuals who either received a live-attenuated COVID-19 vaccine or did not know what kind of vaccine they received should wait two weeks before donating blood. However...

What's False

The FDA advised that individuals who received a nonreplicating, inactivated or mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (including the Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines) could donate blood without delay, provided they were otherwise eligible to do so. Since only a relatively tiny number of individuals had received a live-attenuated vaccine as part of a clinical trial, the overwhelming majority of COVID-19 vaccine recipients were, therefore, eligible to donate blood without delay.

Origin

In the spring of 2021, as a growing number of people in the United States received their first or second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, rumors emerged on social media that those who had been vaccinated were barred from donating blood or required to wait before doing so.

For example, Facebook users enthusiastically shared a meme which advised as follows:

“Requesting ‘YOUTH’ between 18 to 45 to please DONATE BLOOD before VACCINATION begins from 1st MAY. As After Vaccination one can’t Donate blood till minimum 28 days…”

A variant of the meme set the purported deferral period as “minimum 60 days.” 

In response to rumors such as those, American Red Cross told Snopes it received multiple inquiries from social media users about the rules for blood donation after a COVID-19 vaccination.

In reality, the vast majority of COVID-19 vaccine recipients in the United States need not wait to donate blood, as of this article’s publication. In the U.S. context, rumors, memes, and other online claims that vaccinated individuals must wait before donating blood were largely inaccurate, and we are issuing a rating of “Mostly False.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the federal agency that oversees and regulates the collection of blood and blood products, such as plasma, has explicitly stated that: “Individuals who received a nonreplicating, inactivated, or mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine can donate blood without a waiting period.”

The three COVID-19 vaccines that the FDA has authorized for emergency use in the U.S. — those produced by Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson — all meet that description (Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine uses a nonreplicating viral vector, while the other two are mRNA vaccines). Therefore, anyone who has received one of those vaccines can donate blood without delay, assuming they are otherwise eligible to do so.

The FDA has further advised that anyone who has received a different kind of COVID-19 vaccine, known as a “live-attenuated” vaccine, should wait for two weeks until donating blood. Since the FDA has only approved the three vaccines mentioned above, this advisory appears to only apply to individuals who have received a live-attenuated COVID-19 vaccine candidate as part of a clinical trial.

Based on a check of the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s ClinicalTrials.gov database, we estimate fewer than 300 people have received that type of COVID-19 vaccine, hence our assessment that the overwhelming majority of vaccinated individuals can, according to the FDA, donate blood without delay.

The FDA has also advised that if an individual isn’t sure what kind of COVID-19 vaccine they received, they should wait two weeks before donating blood, simply as a precaution. In keeping with that advice, American Red Cross, a leading coordinator of blood donation in the U.S., told Snopes they were accepting blood donations from vaccinated individuals, provided they know the name of the manufacturer and are not still suffering some of the common side effects from vaccination, such as muscle aches, soreness, or fever. The Red Cross is also asking vaccinated people who don’t know the name of the vaccine they received to wait two weeks before donating blood.

Regulations Are Different in India

Upon closer inspection, the “minimum 28 days” and “minimum 60 days” meme highlighted above appeared to have been posted and shared online mainly by users from India, or in India. However, the text of the warning did not include any details that would reflect that geographic specificity, and users from various other countries, including the U.S., may have mistakenly interpreted it as applying to them.

Snopes is not aware of the provenance of that particular meme, but we do know that, at least in the context of India, it appears to contain a significant grain of truth. According to several news reports in India, the government-run National Blood Transfusion Council announced in March 2021 that vaccinated individuals should not be allowed to donate blood until 28 days after they receive their second dose.

Since the recommended period between doses is also 28 days, this meant that the total delay period between receiving your first COVID-19 vaccine dose and donating blood was 56 days — hence the two variants of the meme setting out “28 minimum days” and “60 minimum days.”

However, that advice applied only within India, and it was not clear whether it still represented the position of Indian authorities as of April 23, 2021.