Information You Need: Free antibody testing with blood donations

The need for blood never slows down, but the availability of donors to give blood has dropped due to COVID-19. As we head into winter, a season known for a drop in blood donations, it is more important than ever to prioritize donating blood if you are able. Every few seconds, a cancer patient, trauma victim, or critically ill patient receives a transfusion, and it is only made possible by you. 

As an added bonus for blood donors, the American Red Cross and many other donation centers across Arizona are offering free COVID-19 antibody testing. If, for example, you are curious to know if you were one of those “asymptomatic” carriers, or if that sore throat you had a few weeks ago really was COVID-19 after all, an antibody test can tell you if you were previously exposed. These tests cannot diagnose a current illness, so if you feel ill at all, please wait to donate. 

If you have previously had confirmed COVID-19, but are fully recovered, you may also be eligible to donate convalescent plasma. Convalescent means that you had an illness, and plasma is a component of blood which carries the antibodies your body made to help fight off the illness. So, convalescent plasma is the antibody-rich part of your blood, and it may be used to help treat seriously ill COVID-19 patients during their recovery. Donating plasma is a longer process than donating blood and is a little more intensive so it may not be right for everyone. Contact your local donation center to find out if this service is offered and learn more about the procedure. 

To find a donation center near you, visit the American Association of Blood Banks website. Call ahead to a nearby donation center to:

Check your eligibility:In order to address the increased demand, the FDA has changed some of their eligibility criteria, so if you were previously unable to donate it is worth checking again.
Find a blood drive near you:If there are no donation centers convenient to your home, you can call to find out if they will be holding any blood drives in your neighborhood.
Schedule an appointment:Appointments are typically required to help control the flow and number of people and maintain physical distancing.
Download the appIf you can, download the donation center’s app or create an online account. Benefits of doing so may include checking in and completing screening questionnaires before you get to the donation center, easily scheduling appointments, checking eligibility, and seeing results from antibody testing after donating.
When donating, remember to:✓ Wear a face covering or mask
✓ Stay 6 feet apart from others
✓ Take only necessary supplies into the building
✓ Leave guests and kids at home if possible
✓ Use hand sanitizer and wash your hands as soon as possible
✓ Stay only as long as necessary
✓ Avoid touching unnecessary surfaces

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