Think you can't donate blood because you recently received a COVID-19 vaccine? Think again. We spoke with experts at the Jefferson Blood Donor Center to separate fact from fiction.
Editor’s note: This article was updated from an earlier version posted in October 2019.
Every two seconds someone needs a blood transfusion. Whether it’s being used in cases of trauma, transplants, chronic anemia or cancer, there is no medical substitute for blood. There are many misconceptions around donating blood, but it remains a constant need in the business of saving lives. We spoke with Dr. Julie Karp and blood donor coordinator Matthew Ciecka from Jefferson’s Blood Donor Center to get the truth about five common blood donation misconceptions.
Myth: I can’t donate blood because I received the COVID-19 vaccine.
Fact: The good news is that you can still donate! Whether it is your first, second, or booster shot, there is no deferral period for COVID-19 vaccines. While other vaccines may come with a deferral period, the COVID-19 vaccines do not. That being said, give yourself a day or two to ensure that you are feeling well and not experiencing any side effects from the vaccine before making a blood donation.
Myth: Blood is only needed when there’s a natural disaster.
Fact: Many people will wait until there’s a natural disaster or mass casualty incident to donate blood, but there is a daily need for blood in the medical field. Some of the most pertinent times to donate are over the summer and around the winter holidays when people are preoccupied with vacations and family time. In more recent months, with the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an ongoing national blood shortage. You can donate blood every 56 days in the United States, and blood donations are needed now perhaps more than ever.
Myth: There aren’t many people eligible to donate.
Fact: About four out of 10 people in the U.S. are eligible to donate blood, but only one out of those four will actually take the time to donate. There are fewer restrictions than you may think. You must be at least 16 years old, 110 pounds and any tattoos you have must be over three months old. When you arrive to donate, you’ll go through a wellness exam to make sure your hemoglobin level, blood pressure and general health are up to par. Make sure to bring a photo ID with you for verification purposes.
Myth: You can’t donate if you have a health condition.
Fact: You may think that certain health conditions, like diabetes or high blood pressure, will restrict you from donating blood. In reality, if you have a chronic condition, eligibility depends on how you’re managing it the day you decide to donate. If you have diabetes but your blood sugar is under control and you’re feeling well, you will still be able to donate. If you want to donate but have concerns about a medical condition, check with your doctor first.
Myth: It takes a really long time, is inconvenient and my blood may not even be used.
Fact: The average donation process takes less time than a dentist appointment, about 45 minutes to an hour. The blood donation itself usually only takes five to 10 minutes to complete. If you’re worried about being short on time when coming in to donate, you can schedule an appointment beforehand. In order to make the recovery process easier, it’s a good idea to stay hydrated the day of donation and eat at least two hours before going to your appointment.
Furthermore, while it’s commonly known that O blood types are universal donors and in high demand, all blood types are needed on a daily basis. If you’re skeptical about your blood really being used, turn to Jefferson’s Blood Donor Center. Once you donate blood to Jefferson, you will get a follow-up email telling you the date and components of your blood that were used at the hospital. You can leave the Donor Center knowing that you’re doing something great.
[Editor’s Note: If you’re interested in donating, appointments can be made by calling 215.955.7791 or online here. The Jefferson Blood Donor Center is located at 111 South 10th Street, Gibbon 1114 (ground level), Philadelphia, PA 19107. Regular hours: Monday thru Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.]