BENGALURU: Even as the ongoing COVID pandemic has affected blood banks with very few donors coming forward, a recent order by the National Blood Transfusion Council (NBTC) may just make it worse. NBTC states that blood can be donated only 28 days after a person takes the COVID vaccination.
The order, signed by NBTC Director Sunil Gupta and dated March 5, states that the criterion has been finalised with "28 days post vaccination deferral after the last dose of COVID vaccination, irrespective of the type of vaccine received. The deferral period may be reviewed as and when necessary".
With this, the donor has to wait for 28 days after the second dose of the vaccine, which effectively means that he/she cannot donate for 56 days on the whole. On March 13, Lions Club of Bangalore Sanjay Nagar, wrote to the Council expressing "grave concern", as this would lead to a marked shortage of donors, especially when vaccination opens up for those below 45 years as well.
"The American Association of Blood Banks said in a notification that non-replicating, inactivated and mRNA vaccines do not need any waiting period and only individuals who received a live-attenuated viral Covid vaccine need a deferral period of 14 days," wrote Alphonse Kurian, a member of the club and coordinator of Lions Bloodline, a database of voluntary blood donors in Bengaluru.
Neither Covishield nor Covaxin are live-attenuated vaccines. The letter by the Lions Club has requested NBTC to reverse its decision. "Blood donations have still not reached pre-Covid levels. We used to collect 9,000 units of blood by holding nearly 140 blood donation camps a year before the pandemic. Since July 2020, we have held only 16 camps," Kurian told The New Indian Express, adding that of the 15-16 requests they receive per day, there are only three to four people willing to donate.
Dr Latha Jagannathan, managing trustee and medical director of Bangalore Medical Services Trust that provides blood banking services, said the NBTC order will add to the shortage, especially once the youth start taking the vaccine. However, the Trust will follow the rules, as there should be no possible infection spread or adverse reaction in the beneficiary receiving blood.
"Antibodies or antigens from the recently-vaccinated donor may cause the beneficiaries’ immune system to attack its own body, if they suffer from autoimmune disorders. All vaccines have a waiting period of two weeks to a month when blood cannot be donated," Dr Latha added.