Today, Vitalant became the first national blood bank to test all blood donations for antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The nation’s largest independent, nonprofit blood collector—serving hospital patients in the New Jersey and New York region—is providing the test results to donors who complete successful blood donations, which are critically needed now.

The antibody test—authorized by the Food and Drug Administration—will indicate if the donor’s immune system has produced antibodies to the virus, regardless of whether they ever showed symptoms. It is possible that over time, the broad use of antibody tests and clinical follow-up will provide the medical community with more information on whether a person who has recovered from COVID-19 is at a lower risk of infection, and if so, for how long.

“While a positive antibody test does not mean that someone is immune to COVID-19, it does mean that they may be eligible to donate convalescent plasma in the future and help people with the disease,” said Cliff Numark, Vitalant’s Chief of Marketing. “Convalescent plasma can be given directly to patients currently battling COVID-19 to help boost their ability to fight their illness.” Vitalant began collecting and distributing convalescent plasma in April. For more information, visit vitalant.org/COVIDfree.

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Donations of all blood types are critically needed right now, with an especially high need for type O, A-negative and B-negative red blood cells. In addition, platelets are always needed by patients for cancer treatments, surgeries and emergencies. Because of its short shelf life—only 5 days—the supply of platelets must be continually replenished.

Donors are urged to give blood as soon as possible. Appointments are strongly recommended: visit vitalant.org or call 877-25-VITAL (877-258-4825).

The antibody tests are part of a full panel of tests that Vitalant performs on successful blood donations. Donors are not charged for the tests and costs are subsidized, in part, by The Blood Center Foundation of the Inland Northwest and The Bonfils Blood Center Donor Advised Fund.  Donors will be able to see their results approximately 2 weeks after donating by logging into their online donor accounts.

In addition to Vitalant providing lifesaving blood to patients in need, Vitalant Research Institute is leading several research initiatives related to SARS-CoV-2 antibodies.

June 14 is World Blood Donor Day, a campaign developed by the World Health Organization to raise awareness of the ongoing need for blood. Vitalant strongly encourages donors in the U.S. to step up and give blood to support patients undergoing emergency procedures and receiving ongoing treatments.