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Frequently asked questions about coronavirus vaccination and blood donation

Here you can find answers to frequently asked questions about coronavirus vaccination, blood donation and blod transfusions in Finland.

FAQ​

Can I donate blood if I’ve been vaccinated against coronavirus?

Yes. Being vaccinated against coronavirus does not prevent you from donating blood. If you have a strong reaction to the vaccine (such as severe pain, fever or rash), you will need to wait for two days after the symptoms have disappeared before donating blood.

Why doesn’t Finland employ deferral periods after coronavirus vaccination?

Deferral periods are not required, as coronavirus vaccines do not pose a risk to the safety of blood products. Some countries employ deferral periods because if the donor has a reaction to the vaccine, the blood products already donated must be removed from storage, as it is not certain whether the symptoms/fever are due to an illness. After comparing this wastage with the one that would result if nobody could donate blood for a few days after vaccination, we concluded that routine deferral periods would cause more wastage. 

Is the blood donated by those vaccinated against coronavirus safe for the patient?

The vaccines do not contain SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 or any fractions of the virus. The so-called viral vector vaccines do not contain any disease-causing or viable viruses either. 

Vaccine adjuvants rapidly move from the injection site to the neighbouring muscle cells and lymphocytes in the lymph nodes, and are therefore unlikely (if at all) to end up in the bloodstream. The RNA in the vaccines also breaks down rapidly in the body. The coronavirus vaccines used cannot attach to the human genome (DNA) and therefore cannot modify it.

Because of the way donated blood is processed, red blood cell products and platelet products contain very little plasma. The white blood cells have been removed by filtration, which further reduces the possibility of any traces of the vaccine passing into blood products. Once the vaccine has produced antibodies, a very small amount of these is transferred to the blood recipient, but this is not enough to protect the patient.

Are you separating the blood donated by those vaccinated against coronavirus and those unvaccinated to distinguish whether the blood used in transfusions is from a vaccinated or an unvaccinated person?

The blood donated by those vaccinated and those unvaccinated is not separated, and the Blood Service does not record the vaccination details of blood donors. Based on the structure and mechanism of action of coronavirus vaccines, there are no safety concerns regarding the blood donated by people who have been vaccinated.  

There are claims that the coronavirus vaccines have no marketing authorisation and that they’re still being tested. How can you say that the blood obtained from those who have been vaccinated is not a risk?

All vaccines available in Finland have been approved and granted a marketing authorisation by the European Union and the Finnish regulatory authority. Vaccine development has been rapid, but the vaccines have been tested in a vast number of people before their approval. Safety monitoring will continue after the introduction of the vaccines, and if any unexpected adverse reactions occur, measures will be taken.

Based on the structure and mechanism of action of coronavirus vaccines, there are no safety concerns regarding the blood donated by people who have been vaccinated or those who have received the blood. Vaccine adjuvants rapidly move from the injection site to the neighbouring muscle cells and lymphocytes in the lymph nodes, and are therefore unlikely (if at all) to end up in the bloodstream. A vast number of people, including blood donors, have already been vaccinated, particularly in Western countries, and no safety concerns regarding the blood donated by those who have been vaccinated have emerged.

Do other countries employ deferral periods after vaccination against coronavirus?

None of the coronavirus vaccines approved by the European Union involve any specific safety precautions regarding blood donations and blood transfusions. If the vaccination causes symptoms, blood donation should be avoided for a couple of days. 

Some countries require a short deferral period between coronavirus vaccination and blood donation. These deferral periods are in place because it may be difficult to determine whether any symptoms (such as fever) are due to the vaccination or just illness and thus to decide what measures should be taken regarding the donated blood. 

The Blood Service is not aware of any longer deferral periods or permanent disqualifications from donating blood in any countries after vaccination against coronavirus. Misconceptions about the blood donation disqualification of those vaccinated have arisen partly because those who have been vaccinated and have recovered from COVID-19 have not been allowed to donate plasma – this special “convalescent plasma” has only been collected from people who have had COVID-19 but have not been vaccinated. COVID-19 convalescent plasma is still being studied, and the associated donor elgibility criteria are specific to each study. Many countries now approve or are planning to approve the antibodies acquired by vaccination.

Why does Finland allow blood donation after coronavirus vaccination but Japan doesn’t?

Since 14 May 2021, the Japanese Red Cross has allowed blood donations after a two-day deferral period following vaccination with the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine. The disqualification from donating blood was temporary, because vaccinations have progressed more slowly in Japan than in Europe and it took longer for the authorities to approve the vaccine.

In Europe, the guidelines on vaccines and blood donation are issued by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). The Blood Service complies with the ECDC guidelines, which state that no deferral periods are required after receiving any coronavirus vaccine used in the European Union. Some countries still employ deferral periods of a few days after vaccination.

There’s a video circulating on the internet saying that those vaccinated against coronavirus cannot donate blood in the United States. Why doesn’t Finland adopt this policy?

Misconceptions about the blood donation disqualification of those vaccinated have arisen because those who have been vaccinated and have recovered from COVID-19 have not been allowed to donate plasma; this special convalescent plasma has only been collected from people who have had COVID-19 but have not been vaccinated. 

COVID-19 convalescent plasma is a specific plasma product used in the treatment of COVID-19 patients. In Finland this plasma is collected for studies only from people who have had coronavirus and have a sufficient level of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 virus. The United States now also permits standard whole blood donations following coronavirus vaccination. 

The US Red Cross stopped collecting convalescent plasma on 26 March due to a decline in demand and because sufficient quantities of plasma were being produced by the pharmaceutical industry. The US is testing coronavirus antibody levels from all donated blood. The plasma obtained from those donors whose antibody levels are sufficient and who meet the other criteria can be used as convalescent plasma if necessary. 

More information about collecting convalescent plasma

In Finland, convalescent plasma is currently collected jointly by the Blood Service, the University of Helsinki and the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa (HUS). A research group at the hospital chooses people who have had COVID-19 to act as voluntary plasma donors (they must also meet the general blood donation criteria). This plasma is obtained using an apheresis machine from blood collected at the blood donation unit in Kivihaka, Helsinki. Convalescent plasma is only used in the treatment of the coronavirus patients participating in the study. This is a double-blind study, in which patients receive either plasma therapy or placebo.

In Finland, the ‘standard plasma’ collected via whole blood donations cannot be given to patients as such, and is sent instead frozen to central Europe to be processed into other plasma pharmaceuticals. At the pharmaceutical plant, plasma from donors in different countries is combined and processed using techniques such as virus inactivation to manufacture medicines, including immunoglobulin products. Plasma medicines are also distributed to Finland. 

Can donating blood just before coronavirus vaccination prevent blood clots?

There are no facts to support this. In any case, it’s important to drink plenty of fluids before and after donating blood to prevent dehydration and the associated nausea. In theory, dehydration may slightly increase the risk of blood clots. Donating blood just before vaccination is not harmful in general – as long as the donor is not too nervous about the vaccination and does not remain standing for long periods of time.

Can you refuse blood from someone who has been vaccinated against coronavirus?

In Finland, patients have the right of self-determination, which means they can refuse any treatment. Nevertheless, you cannot specifically refuse a transfusion of blood from a person who has been vaccinated, because blood products are not labelled according to the vaccination status of the donor as the vaccinations are not considered to affect product safety. 

Blood products often save lives, and the patient should be aware of the risks that a refusal may involve, as these risks may sometimes be serious and life-threatening. Blood cannot be replaced with medicines.