Canadian Blood Services is reassuring the public that blood donated by anyone who has had COVID-19 or who has been vaccinated is safe.
“Given that COVID is a respiratory virus, there’s no impact to the blood as far as transmission to a patient. There is no concern,” said Chantale Pambrun, director of the Canadian Blood Services Centre for Innovation in Ottawa.
More than 955,000 people have been infected with COVID-19 in Canada in the past year and the long-term effects on survivors are still mostly unknown.
The blood donation agency has added some pre-screening questions about whether a potential donor has been exposed to COVID-19 in the past two weeks or contracted the novel coronavirus in the past 28 days.
Pambrun said individuals who are not feeling well after receiving the vaccine or long-haul COVID-19 patients still under the care of a physician are not eligible to donate.
Blood from former COVID-19 patients has been used in a national pilot project in which it was injected into people who had the virus. The hope was that antibodies from those who had successfully overcome the illness could boost recovery.
“This was realistically the only way to provide antibodies to COVID prior to any sort of vaccine being available,” said Dr. Davinder Sidhu, a pathologist who led the project from the Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary.
The project is now over and data is being analyzed. Canadian Blood Services is collecting the results to get a sense of community spread in different regions across the country
Sidhu, a clinical associate professor at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine, agrees there’s no concern with blood donated by someone who has been ill or vaccinated.
“Typically our focus on exclusion criteria for transfusion or donation of blood is on HIV and certain types of parasitic infections,” he said.
“COVID is not on that list.”
About 400,000 of Canada’s 37 million population give blood on a regular basis.
Canadian Blood Services operates a national inventory that allows products to be regularly shifted around the country to meet needs. But the inventory has a shelf life — a year for frozen plasma, 42 days for red blood cells and five days for platelets — so it takes some work to ensure supply continues to meet demand.
So far, Canadians are still giving the 17,000 units each week that are required to meet that demand. Part of that success has been due to new donors and limited resumption of mobile clinics at sites where physical distancing is possible, Pambrun said.
“We service over 600 hospitals. So far, we’ve been able to keep up.”