The South African National Blood Service (SANBS) has moved to reassure donors who are worried about giving blood during the pandemic.
Only 1% of the South African population are regular blood donors, and blood collection has plummeted over the past two years due to lockdown regulations, making it hard for SANBS to meet the demand for blood across the country, says the service’s medical director Karin van den Berg
“This is also because of a reduced number of mobile blood drives at different facilities such as office parks, universities, and schools.”
There are also concerns about the ability to donate blood after contracting or getting vaccinated against Covid-19, and one major factor for the low donor turnout is misinformation on social media, says Ms Van den Berg.
There are several myths doing the rounds that the SANBS wishes to dispel:
Myth 1: Unvaccinated individuals cannot donate blood.
Anyone can donate blood, as long as they are healthy and meet all the qualifying criteria. Unvaccinated donors are still welcome if they do not show any Covid-19 symptoms and have not been in contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.
Myth 2: Vaccinated recipients receive vaccinated blood, while unvaccinated people receive unvaccinated blood
SANBS does not systematically record the vaccination status of donors and therefore does not have a system to separate blood from vaccinated and unvaccinated donors. Blood is provided equitably to all patients, whether vaccinated or not.
Myth 3: SANBS tests blood for Covid-19
SANBS does not test blood for the presence of the virus nor for antibodies against the virus. Covid-19 is a respiratory virus and is not considered transmissible through a blood transfusion. However, donors need to ensure they do not have any symptoms of Covid-19 at the time of donation for the safety of staff and other donors.
Myth 4: A blood recipient will become vaccinated after receiving blood from a vaccinated donor.
Receiving vaccinated blood does not mean that a person is now vaccinated against Covid-19. A person will still need to get a Covid-19 vaccine as per the guidance of the Department of Health.
Myth 5: Vaccinated blood is harmful towards an unvaccinated patient.
There is no scientific evidence proving that blood from vaccinated or unvaccinated donors will have any harmful impact on either vaccinated or unvaccinated patients.
Large volumes of blood are collected from vaccinated donors in Europe and America and have been transfused to both vaccinated and unvaccinated patients with no indication that the vaccination status of the donor or the patient has had any meaningful effect on the outcome of the patient.