What you need to know about blood donation and COVID-19.

Even as more and more people receive COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters and return to daily life, blood, platelet and plasma donations are still urgently needed. Around the holidays, people feel more generous by giving to many organizations, which makes it the perfect time to help save a life by donating blood.

Because of the pandemic, there continues to be a critical shortage of blood across the nation, placing a greater demand on our blood supply,” said Marsha Uhl, Service Line Director for Laboratory Services at Penn Highlands Healthcare.

“COVID-19 doesn’t significantly change how we collect or use donations,” said Uhl. “Our biggest obstacle to increasing the supply is simply getting people in the door to donate.”

While the pandemic doesn’t have a large impact on donation precautions, there are still questions surrounding blood donations. Here is a list of frequently asked questions:

Can I donate blood after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes! You are eligible - and encouraged - to donate blood if you are vaccinated. If you received the Johnson & Johnson, Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, you are eligible to donate without a waiting period. If you received a live attenuated COVID-19 vaccine as part of a clinical trial (this is rare), or you do not know what type of vaccine you received, you must wait 14 days after receiving the final vaccine before donating.

Will donating blood reduce the effectiveness of the vaccine?

No, donating blood will not affect your COVID-19 antibody levels. Your body has 10 pints of blood, and a donation is only about one pint. Your immune system will quickly replace all the cells and fluids from your donation, including COVID-19 antibodies.

Can I also donate plasma and platelets?

Yes, you can! The same guidelines as blood donations apply to plasma and platelet donations. You can donate without a waiting period if you received the Johnson & Johnson, Moderna or Pfizer vaccine. If you do not know what vaccine you received, or if you were part of a clinical trial, you must wait 14 days before donating.

I recently had COVID-19. When can I donate blood?

Per FDA guidelines, individuals who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 should wait at least 14 days after your symptoms go completely away.

What about if I was diagnosed with COVID-19 but never had symptoms?

If you tested positive for COVID-19 but didn’t experience any symptoms, you should wait at least 14 days after the date of your positive test.

Does donating blood put me at an increased risk for COVID-19?

The blood donation process doesn’t increase your risk. COVID-19 is a respiratory virus, and there is no evidence or reported cases that it can be transmitted by donation or transfusion. But since blood donations generally occur in public settings, you should continue to follow local guidelines and recommended precautions, particularly if are a high risk individual due to an underlying medical condition, age or another factor.

“During this time of year we’re all looking for ways to give back and help others. Donating blood is one of the easiest things you can do, and it really does save lives,” said Uhl. “With January being National Blood Donor Month, we would like to kick off 2022 strong.”

If you are interested in donating throughout 2022, we have the following dates scheduled for blood drives that will support the Community Blood Bank of Erie, the official blood supplier for Penn Highlands.

Penn Highlands Brookville, Thursday, April 7 from 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM at 100 Hospital Road, Mobile Unit,

Penn Highlands Clearfield, Thurs, February 10 from 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM at 815 Doctors Drive, Mobile Unit

Penn Highlands DuBois, The following Fridays: January 14; March 18; May 13; July 15; September 16; November 18. From 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM at 204 Hospital Ave in the CRC Assembly Room

Penn Highlands Elk, the following Tuesdays: January 4; Feb 1; March 1; April 5; May 3; June 7; July 5; Aug 2; September 6; October 4; November 8; December 6, 2022 from 11:00 AM – 4:00 PM at 763 Johnsonburg Rd. in the Education Center

Penn Highlands thanks you for joining in our efforts supporting our patients and communities by donating blood.

Penn Highlands Healthcare also provides residents with access to the region’s best hospitals, physicians, nursing homes, home care agency and other affiliates who believe that healthcare should be managed by local board members who live and work in the communities they serve. To learn more about how you can contribute to high-quality care in our region, please visit www.phhealthcare.org/donate.