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Here are answers to R-S reader questions about the coronavirus. Questions have been edited for clarity, length and accuracy.
Blood donations and the COVID-19 vaccine
Q: Can you give blood if you’ve been vaccinated?
A: Assuming you have no other health issue and were otherwise approved to donate, yes, you can give blood, platelets or plasma after a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the American Red Cross.
However, knowing which manufacturer’s vaccine you received is important in determining your blood donation eligibility,” the Red Cross said. Donors are encouraged to bring their CDC card or other card or printout received when they were vaccinated. This should include which COVID-19 vaccine(s) you received and the dates got them.
According to the Red Cross, in most cases there’s no wait time between showing your card and giving blood if:
- You are symptom free and feeling well.
- You received an inactivated or RNA-based COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by AstraZeneca, Janssen/Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Novavax or Pfizer.
There are situations in which you may need to wait to give blood, the Red Cross said. “Eligible blood donors who received a live attenuated COVID-19 vaccine, or don’t know what type of COVID-19 vaccine they received, must wait two weeks before giving blood.”
COVID vaccine spike proteins are safe
Q: Do spike proteins in vaccinated donors’ blood protect those receiving it?
A: The person receiving your blood gets no benefit or disadvantage from your being vaccinated, according to staff at Vitalant blood bank on Larkspur Lane in Redding. It won’t affect the receiver’s likelihood of getting the disease or their immunity.
That’s because spike proteins are in tissue cells, not blood, according to Vitalant’s medical director Dr. Chris Gresens.
Here is how the vaccine works:
Spike proteins are found naturally on the surface of the COVID-19 virus, Gresens said. They give the virus its spiky crown — its “corona” — appearance. Our bodies need to recognize these spike proteins in order to realize we’re under attack from the virus.
The vaccine has to fool the body into thinking it has an active coronavirus, Gresens said. It does so by making our bodies create only the spike proteins ourselves. Then our immune systems react to them as if they were the whole virus, making antibodies to protect us.
Coronavirus coverage: Shasta schools see case rates rise among staff, decline among students
The vaccine is delivered into arm muscle, not the bloodstream. Much of the vaccine dose then goes to the nearby lymph nodes under the arm and in the neck. That’s why some people feel a bit sore around the pit of the arm where they received the shot; the lymph nodes are a bit swollen while they create all those protective antibodies.
While the spike proteins you produce help your body build immunity, they won’t likely help the person who receives your pint of blood, he said.
“While it’s possible that minuscule amounts of spike protein could be transferred passively from the blood of a recently-vaccinated donor to a recipient during a blood transfusion, this amount would be so minute that it would not (likely) have any effect on the individual receiving the blood product,” Gresens said.
Long-term effects of the coronavirus in Shasta County
Q: What are long-term effects of COVID-19 in Shasta County? How are they tracked? How is our medical community responding?
A: Long-term symptoms of COVID-19 — which can strike even people who didn’t have short-term symptoms — aren’t tracked by Shasta County Public Health.
“We don’t have the capacity to track long-term effects of COVID locally,” Shasta County Health and Human Service spokeswoman Kerri Schuette said.
Instead, doctors may instruct patients in ways to participate in symptom studies, or tell them how to report their short- and long-term symptoms to a database, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
The CDC lists common symptoms suffered by COVID-19 patients based on studies already done at https://bit.ly/3AkvyXd.
“I don’t think the effects would be any different locally than they are anywhere else,” Schuette said.
Flu season almost disappeared
Q: The flu almost disappeared in 2020 due to mask wearing. Are there other diseases that were greatly reduced?
A: Yes, a year of mask wearing, social distancing, hand washing, staying home and avoiding travel — basically avoiding most people — reduced our exposure.
Thus cases of respiratory illnesses were fewer in 2020 and early 2021 than in past years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The number of influenza cases was, as you said, a fraction of what it was in the past.
- The CDC reported 2,038 cases of the flu from Sept. 2020 to April 2021.
- Compare that to around 38 million cases in 2019-2020.
Other respiratory infections and viruses spread by coughing, sneezing and the like also went down, according to a CDC report issued in July. That includes the common metapneumovirus.
Discovered in 2001, the human metapneumovirus — or HMPV — can cause upper and lower respiratory disease in anyone, the CDC said, especially young children, older adults and people with certain health conditions or weakened immune systems.
To read more about at HMPV and other nasty respiratory viruses we didn’t often get in 2020, see the CDC’s report at https://bit.ly/2Xvn4y4.
Jessica Skropanic is a features reporter for the Record Searchlight/USA Today Network. She covers science, arts, social issues and entertainment stories. Follow her on Twitter @RS_JSkropanic and on Facebook. Join Jessica in the Get Out! Nor Cal recreation Facebook group. To support and sustain this work, please subscribe today. Thank you.