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Fact Check-Red Cross is accepting plasma from people vaccinated against COVID-19

The American Red Cross confirmed to Reuters that they are allowing people who have received the COVID-19 vaccine to donate plasma (the liquid component in blood, here ), contrary to claims on social media that this plasma is not being accepted because the vaccine is “so untested”.

The confusion may have arisen over the Red Cross’ policy on convalescent plasma, meaning plasma that has COVID-19 antibodies after recent infection and can be used as a treatment for COVID-19 infection. The American Red Cross’ current policy is to only accept convalescent plasma donations from people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have not had the vaccine. Although, if plasma donated by people vaccinated against COVID-19 has a high-level of COVID-19 antibodies it may be used as convalescent plasma.

The posts (here) say “The Red Cross won’t accept plasma donations from people who have had the Covid vaccine. You’re willing to put something in your body that is so untested that the FDA and Red Cross don’t know if you can donate Plasma, yet me not wanting to take it makes me irresponsible?” This appears to have come from a tweet, originally viewable here .

Some posts (here) show the full tweet which includes a screenshot of a genuine page on the American Red Cross website saying people who have received the COVID-19 vaccine cannot donate convalescent plasma here .

Plasma – not convalescent plasma – can, however, be donated to the Red Cross by vaccinated individuals (here).

PLASMA DONATION

Jenelle Eli, Director of International Communications for American Red Cross told Reuters via email that people who are eligible to give plasma donations can do so if they have been vaccinated against COVID-19. “This applies to all COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized in the U.S. including J&J, Moderna and Pfizer.”

Eli pointed to an exception: “if an individual received a non-FDA approved COVID-19 vaccine as part of a clinical trial [and] the vaccine was a live attenuated COVID-19 vaccine [meaning it contains a weakened live virus [ here , here ] or the individual does not know what kind of vaccine it was, they must wait two weeks.”

Eli also clarified that all blood donors must feel healthy when they donate, so people who are experiencing the side effects from the vaccine will have to wait until their symptoms get better to donate.

CONVALESCENT PLASMA DONATION

Eli stressed the difference between plasma and convalescent plasma. While plasma-only donations are used to help treat bleeding disorders, severe liver disease, clotting factor deficiencies and blood loss following severe trauma or surgeries, convalescent plasma uses blood from people who have recovered from an illness to help others who are actively fighting that illness.

Blood plasma donated by people who have recovered from COVID-19 infection usually has high levels of COVID-19 antibodies. This convalescent plasma can be given to people with COVID-19 to improve their ability to fight the virus ( here , here , here , here ). Convalescent plasma therapy has emergency authorization by the FDA to treat COVID-19 (here).

As some of the social media posts show, the American Red Cross is indeed currently not accepting convalescent plasma donations from those vaccinated against COVID-19 (here). Eli told Reuters, “Convalescent plasma collected by the Red Cross can only come from individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 and have not received a COVID-19 vaccine.”

Eli did add that seeing as the Red Cross is testing all blood donations for COVID-19 antibodies, plasma from routine donations that have a high level of these antibodies may be used as convalescent plasma.

The Red Cross is evaluating the “feasibility” and “timeline” of implementing new February 2021 guidance from the FDA, which says (here) that COVID-19 convalescent plasma should not be collected from people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 unless they have had COVID-19 in the past six months and received the vaccine after they were diagnosed with COVID-19.

The FDA explains that the reasoning behind their guidance is to “ensure that COVID-19 convalescent plasma collected from donors contains antibodies directly related to their immune responses to SARS-CoV2 infection” rather than antibodies formed following vaccination.

An FDA spokesperson told Reuters via email that there is yet no data on whether the plasma of vaccinated patients might be effective for the treatment of hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

VERDICT

False. The American Red Cross is accepting plasma donations from people who are usually eligible for such donations who have received a COVID-19 vaccine. The American Red Cross is avoiding convalescent plasma from those vaccinated against COVID-19 but exceptions are made if the convalescent plasma is high in COVID-19 antibodies.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here .

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