Questions and answers: Blood and Plasma Donation
Is COVID-19 transmissible by blood or blood products?
Current evidence and risk modelling suggest that COVID-19 is not transmissible through blood and blood products. This includes plasma protein products, which are pharmaceutical therapies made from plasma — a component of blood. Nonetheless, Canadian Blood Services has strict measures in place to ensure the continued safety of our products and services related to blood, plasma, stem cells, and organs and tissues, and to address the health of our donors. In addition, manufacturers of plasma protein products routinely use added safety steps in their manufacturing process that inactivate or remove viruses.
Can I donate blood if I have been ill with COVID-19, or been exposed to it?
We are constantly reviewing our eligibility criteria based on the latest information about the virus and how it is spread. As a result, donors should expect frequent changes. As of March 29, 2020, the following people and their close contacts are not eligible to donate blood for 14 days after the infected person’s recovery:
- People who have tested positive for COVID-19;
- People who have developed a fever and cough after close contact with someone who has tested positive
- People who have developed a fever and cough within 14 days of travel outside Canada
- Those who develop a fever and cough after close contact with a symptomatic person who became ill within two weeks of travel outside Canada.
People exposed in the community or at work to those above may also be temporarily ineligible. For more information about eligibility, we ask donors to call 1 888 2 DONATE (1-888-236-6283).
We ask all travellers to self-isolate and refrain from any blood donation for at least 14 days after any travel outside of Canada as stated by public health authorities. That includes travellers returning from the continental U.S., Europe and Antarctica. The deferral period is a minimum of 21 days for travellers returning from other places. Please consult the travel section on our ABCs of eligibility page.
What enhanced measures are being taken to protect donors, employees and volunteers at our donor centres?
When a donor, employee or volunteer walks through our doors they can take comfort in knowing that we are taking proactive steps to limit the risk of infection.
In addition to our robust cleaning and screening practices, we have implemented a welcome wellness screening checkpoint, mandatory mask policy, physical distancing measures and enhanced and frequent cleaning practices which closely align with the Public Health Agency of Canada's (PHAC) recommendations.
Our team is consistently monitoring and assessing whether additional measures are necessary to protect the health and safety of donors, employees and volunteers. Here is an overview of the measures we currently have in place:
Enhanced cleaning measures
- The frequency of cleaning has been increased for all equipment and surfaces
- Donor beds are wiped down after every use
- Laminated donor pamphlets are wiped down after every use. Pamphlets that are not laminated are single use.
- Plastic Ziploc® bags containing donor materials are single use.
- Digital touch screens used to sign in for donor appointments and the Q-osk donors use to fill out their questionnaire are cleaned after every use, along with the signature pad and digital pen that donors use to sign their consent.
- We continue to review our cleaning products to ensure they effectively kill viruses on a variety of surfaces. For example, we currently use Lysol disinfecting wipes or a bleach dilution for cleaning and are advised by a senior expert in microbiology on the proper concentration to kill viruses while ensuring the air is still safe to breathe.
Physical distancing measures
- We are limiting the number of people allowed inside donor centres by welcoming people with appointments only.
- To reduce the number of people in our donor centres, we have made adjustments to reduce the number of appointments each day.
- Donors in beds are two metres apart.
- Waiting room chairs are now two metres apart.
- Where space does not allow for physical distancing, vinyl screens will be placed between donor beds or seating areas.
- Staff and donors are being asked to keep a two metre distance from each other where possible.
- Donors will be asked to wait in their current position (waiting chair, screening station, or donation bed), until a space is open for them to move on to.
Additional wellness protocols
- Surgical face masks provided by Canadian Blood Services are mandatory while within our donor centres and mobile donation event venues.
- If a donor indicates that they cannot wear a surgical mask, they have the option of:
- wearing a Canadian Blood Services-supplied surgical mask over their own mask.
- wearing a Canadian Blood Services-supplied cloth mask
- Unfortunately, anyone who refuses these options will not be allowed our centres.
- Donors must complete a pre-screening questionnaire on the day of their appointment to determine if they are in good health and eligible to donate. Donors can preview these questions in advance here.
- Before entering our sites, donors must review and answer our wellness questionnaire available at the front of the building.
- Afterwards, donors will be greeted by an employee before entering our buildings to carefully evaluate whether they are feeling well enough to enter. Donors will be asked to defer, and employees/volunteers will be asked not to enter the building if they are symptomatic.
- Upon arrival, donors will receive a temperature check at the donor wellness checkpoint. This step in the wellness screening process replaces the temperature check that is normally conducted during the pre-COVID-19 screening process. Please refrain from drinking a hot beverage 5-10 minutes before arriving to your appointment.
- Once inside the building, all donors, employees and volunteers will be instructed to sanitize their hands before proceeding further. Hand sanitizer and other hand washing means are available throughout the donor centre.
- We have removed tables from our refreshment area, to limit the number of surfaces a donor may come in contact with.
- We have suspended the use of water coolers, reusable glasses and mugs, and are shifting to providing only individually packaged beverages. We have removed opened and unwrapped snacks from our donor refreshment stations. Only pre-wrapped snacks are available, and they will be offered directly to donors.
- We have suspended the use of pre-donation salty snacks in our donor centres and mobile events to limit the risk of spread through touching the mouth with fingers directly prior to the donation process.
What additional personal protective equipment measures have you implemented in your donor centres?
We have implemented physical barriers where two metre distancing is not possible. Plexiglass barriers are now in place for most active wellness checks, reception areas and screening booths.
In addition, masks are mandatory for everyone — including employees, volunteers, donors and contractors.
Gloves are also mandatory for employees and volunteers throughout the donor centre environment.
Face shields are available in collections and non-collections environments where effective physical distancing is not possible.
Are you testing for COVID-19?
No, we are not currently testing for COVID-19. There is no Health Canada or FDA approved test to screen blood for COVID-19. Current evidence and risk modelling suggest that COVID-19 is not transmissible through the transfusion of blood and blood products.
Travel deferrals are in place and we are continuously evaluating whether additional assessments or deferral policies are needed or if additional measures are required to protect donors, patients, employees and volunteers.
Are there any risks for donors or recipients?
Canadians rely on us to keep the blood system safe and we take this responsibility very seriously.
We have a strong record of responding quickly and effectively to public health issues, as demonstrated in the past with West Nile virus, Chagas, SARS, MERS, Zika and H1N1.
Current evidence and risk modelling suggest that COVID-19 is not transmissible through blood and blood products. This includes plasma protein products, which are pharmaceutical therapies made from plasma — a component of blood.
Nonetheless, Canadian Blood Services has strict measures in place to ensure the continued safety of our products and services related to blood, plasma, stem cells, and organs and tissues, and to address the health of our donors. As we would for flu symptoms or other illnesses, we ask donors to stay at home if they are not feeling well, since only healthy people are eligible to donate blood.
Should I stay home if I’m not feeling well?
As we would for flu symptoms or other illnesses, we ask our donors to stay at home if they are not feeling well, since only healthy people are eligible to donate blood. Potential donors are pre-screened for any signs of sickness when they book the appointment.
There are other ways you can help save lives during this time. You may be eligible to register to donate stem cells and organs and tissues. Financial gifts to Canadian Blood Services also help make a difference for patients by supporting donor recruitment efforts and strengthening our national programs and initiatives for life essentials.
We encourage everyone to keep practicing usual precautions against the spread of infections such as proper hand washing and proper cough and sneeze etiquette, and staying home when not feeling well.
What if I fall ill after donating?
As with any donation if you fall ill between 2 - 14 days after your donation, please contact us at 1-888 2-DONATE
Should I contact Canadian Blood Services if I am investigated by public health as either a case of COVID-19, or a contact of a case of COVID-19?
Yes, we ask Canadians to please contact Canadian Blood Services if they are a blood donor and are investigated by public health as either a case of COVID-19 or a contact of a case of COVID-19.
How are your employees being screened in donor centres?
We are currently following the advice from the Public Health Agency of Canada to ensure, to the best of our ability, that employees who work in our donor centres are healthy. We are taking a number of proactive steps to limit the risk of infection to our donors and staff.
- Employees are being asked to monitor their health and not report to work if they are feeling unwell or have come into contact with someone who is diagnosed with COVID-19.
- Like donors, employees are subject to two active wellness checkpoints upon entry into donor centres where instructions such as hand sanitizing are mandatory.
- Temperature checks are mandatory for all employees, volunteers and contractors. Temperatures are being measured at active wellness checkpoints using infrared thermometers.
- Employees have been strongly recommended to use the Public Health Agency of Canada advice to self-isolate for 14 days if returning from international travel. They are not expected to report to work under these circumstances.
As the situation rapidly evolves these provisions are subject to change.
What about walk-ins? Can people without an appointment go to a donor centre and donate blood?
No. In compliance with the Public Health Agency of Canada’s direction to enable physical distancing, at this time, we can only welcome people with appointments.
- Appointments help minimize the number of people in our donor centres at a given time.
- Appointments also allow prospective donors to complete a pre-screening questionnaire before they arrive at a donor centre, allowing them to self-defer if necessary in keeping with health and safety recommendations.
- We ask all eligible donors to book an appointment online at blood.ca, on the GiveBlood app, or by calling 1 888 2 DONATE (1-888-236-6283).
Why have some donor centres been closed, and some mobile collection events cancelled?
In compliance with the Public Health Agency of Canada's direction to enable physical distancing, we are evaluating our mobile and fixed donor sites to make sure they meet this requirement.
Some mobile and fixed donor centres are better able than others to accommodate physical distancing requirements.
To address the immediate needs for blood and platelet collections, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we must shift capacity in a manner that optimizes our collection network.
Many fixed donor centres will see expanded hours for donors, while we temporarily suspend collection at others.
We are notifying donors of donation events that have been suspended or moved to a different location.
Our goal is to ensure all donors continue to receive the best possible experience every time they donate. These changes do not impact how hospitals and other health care centres will receive blood and blood products. Canadian patients will continue to receive the blood products they need, where and when they need them.
I’ve been outside my province within the past 14 days. Can I still donate?
Many provinces require people to self-isolate for 14 days after returning from another country, province or territory. These provinces include New Brunswick, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island and all three territories.
In accordance with public health guidance, if you have been out of the province within the past 14 days, we ask you to remain home and self-isolate. We are asking donors about recent travel at our active wellness checkpoints, and anyone with a recent travel history will be asked to return home and rebook their appointments for a later date.
I tested positive for COVID-19 but am asymptomatic. How long after the positive test do I have to wait to donate?
If you tested positive for COVID-19 but have had no symptoms, you can donate 14 days after your positive test if you meet all other eligibility criteria.
I was hospitalized with COVID-19. How long after recovery can I donate blood?
There is evidence that people who have been hospitalized with COVID-19 can be infectious for a longer period than those who are not. If you have been hospitalized with COVID-19 you will need to wait 21 days after your full recovery to donate blood.
Can I donate blood if I have travelled within the Atlantic "bubble"?
Yes. Provincial governments from the four Atlantic provinces — New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador, have implemented a regional travel “bubble” between their borders. This means that residents of Atlantic Canada crossing through the Atlantic provinces will no longer have to isolate for 14 days.
To align with provincial regulations and advice from public health, we have modified the wellness check questionnaire at our Atlantic collection events. Effective today, donors will now be eligible to donate if they have travelled between the four Atlantic provinces and meet other eligibility requirements. Employees, volunteers and contractors will also be allowed to enter our sites if they have travelled between the “bubbled” provinces and meet other entry requirements.
We will continue to closely monitor as government restrictions start to lift across the country. As provincial measures shift, we will ensure that our eligibility requirements in those regions are aligned with regulations and public health advice and keep employees updated on how these changes affect you and our donors.
Can I donate blood if I have travelled outside of Manitoba?
You may be able to donate blood after travelling outside of Manitoba. The following is the current guidance from the Manitoba provincial government:
Anyone entering Manitoba from designated western Canada jurisdictions (British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan) or Northwestern Ontario (defined as west of Terrace Bay) is not required to self-isolate for 14 days if they are asymptomatic and have no known exposure to COVID-19.
Travellers from all other jurisdictions will need to continue to self-isolate for 14 days after arriving in Manitoba. Anyone entering Canada must continue to follow federal requirements for self-isolation at the time of entry.
Why did you make the decision to make masks mandatory in donor centres?
We are constantly evaluating our practices to minimize the risk of transmission of COVID-19. This decision is in response to the guidance being provided by a number of public health and government agencies on community practices to restrict the spread of COVID-19.
There have been a number of shifts with regard to local public health reactions to PPE and physical distancing measures, new Public Health Agency of Canada guidance and the continued response to perceived risk. The decision to move to mandatory masks was made out of an abundance of caution and to ensure that employees and donors feel safe and supported and that their concerns have been heard.
During the collection process it is not always possible to maintain the required two metres physical distancing between donors and employees. In these circumstances, wearing masks helps minimize the likelihood of droplet transmission from one individual to another. This only works if all parties wear a mask.
In my province, COVID-19 restrictions are being eased. Did Canadian Blood services consider any provincial exemptions for areas which may not have active COVID-19 infections?
Not at this time. COVID-19 infections are still active in all the regions in which we operate. We will continue to evaluate practices, such as mask wearing, as the pandemic evolves in Canada.
Can I wear my own mask?
No. Surgical face masks provided by Canadian Blood Services are mandatory while within our donor centres and mobile donation event venues.
If a donor indicates that they cannot wear a surgical mask, they have the option of:
- wearing a Canadian Blood Services-supplied surgical mask over their own mask.
- wearing a Canadian Blood Services-supplied cloth mask
Unfortunately, anyone who refuses these options will not be allowed our centres.
I have heard that you are suspending post-donation refreshments. Is that true?
To support our decision to implement mandatory masks for donors, we will be introducing a new system in our refreshment areas effective May 11.
To limit the risk of spreading the virus, we will ask you to sit for five minutes in the refreshment area with your mask on after your donation to rest and to allow collections staff to monitor your wellbeing.
After this rest period, we encourage you to grab a snack and refreshment and take it with you when you leave the donor centre.
Can I wear a mask with valves (vented mask) to donate?
- No. Surgical face masks provided by Canadian Blood Services are mandatory while within our donor centres and mobile donation event venues.
- Vented masks with valves are not permitted in Canadian Blood Services facilities. This is decision is aligned with guidance from public health which has determined that masks with exhalation valves don’t protect others from COVID-19 and don’t limit the spread of COVID-19.
The use of vented masks increases the risk of an individual generating droplets which may spread outside of the mask and/or land on surfaces. Although enhanced cleaning practices are in place, it is difficult to disinfect an area after each use. As a result, this style of mask may put our teams, volunteers and other donors and operations at risk
Can I wear gaiter/buff-style mask to donate?
- No. Surgical face masks provided by Canadian Blood Services are mandatory while within our donor centres and mobile donation event venues.
- Gaiter/buff-style masks are not permitted in Canadian Blood Services sites. They have not been designed or certified as protection against viruses, so they are not suitable for preventing the spread of COVID-19.
- Gaiter/buff style masks are not considered as effective at preventing the spread of COVID-19. They are not designed to be masks and as they are loose fitting, they do not align with the WHO recommendation that a mask should fit snugly around your mouth and nose. As a result, this style of mask may put our teams, volunteers and other donors and operations at risk.
Is Canadian Blood Services planning to participate in COVID-19 related clinical trials or research, other than the convalescent plasma clinical trial?
Yes, we are supplying COVID-19 convalescent plasma for three COVID-19 related clinical trials that have been approved by Health Canada: two adult trials, one treating early stage COVID-19 patients and one treating severely-ill COVID-19 patients, as well as a pediatric trial.
We also hope to supply some blood products to researchers through our Blood4Research Program.
Is there a chance that governments might ask Canadian Blood Services to help with performing COVID-19 antibody blood testing on the general public?
Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec have formed a research partnership with the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force to determine the prevalence of the COVID-19 antibody in Canadians’ blood serum.
This partnership was announced by the federal government on June 17, 2020, and is expected to operate over the next two years.
Phase one of the research project will allow us to validate the meaning of negative and positive test results as they relate to COVID-19.
Phase two of the project will apply these data to estimate the seroprevalence of COVID-19 antibodies.
Canadian Blood Services routinely tests donor blood samples for infectious disease and unexpected antibodies. Not all samples collected during donations over the coming months will be part of the seroprevalence study.
The study will ultimately give policy-makers an understanding of the actual COVID-19 infection rate for different groups and regions in Canada-- this includes previously uncollected data on those who may have only suffered a mild infection or were asymptomatic to COVID-19.
The data collected for the purposes of the study is subjected to Canadian Blood Services’ research ethics board protocols. At this time individual donors will not be notified on their rest results.
The research is being conducted using anonymized data. Summary reports will be sent to the Task Force.
The seroprevalence study should better inform public health policy decisions as the pandemic continues to unfold.
Will blood/plasma donors get priority access to the COVID-19 vaccine?
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) provides public health guidance to all levels of government in Canada regarding priority access to vaccines in the country. The NACI has provided preliminary guidance that “essential services” should have prioritized access to COVID-19 vaccine in Stage Two. Included in that group are donors and those who support blood and plasma donation.
Canadian Blood Services is working with provincial and territorial governments to confirm access to the COVID-19 vaccine for employees across the country. Discussions will also include consideration of donors and volunteers, given how important they are to the blood system. This will understandably be an evolving dialogue in the coming months, as governments navigate vaccine roll-out efforts across the country.
Will there be an impact on donors who receive the COVID-19 vaccine? Will there be a deferral period?
Donors who receive the COVID-19 vaccine do not require a deferral period.
Our Donor Selection Criteria Manual working group (DSCM) conducted a review of the two Health Canada approved vaccines for COVID-19 (BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna) as well as those under development and determined they will not impact donation eligibility.
It is still unknown if there might be side effects with the vaccines which may impact donors, such as not feeling well enough to donate. We are also monitoring how other countries are managing donor deferrals, such as the EU and US (FDA).
You can find more information about donor eligibility at www.blood.ca/en/blood/am-i-eligible/changes-donation-criteria-blood-donation.
Questions and answers: Plasma Protein and Related Products
What about medicines made from plasma? Is COVID-19 transmissible through Plasma Protein Products?
Current evidence and risk modelling suggest that COVID-19 is not transmissible through blood and blood products. This includes plasma protein products, which are pharmaceutical therapies made from plasma — a component of blood. In general, plasma protein products are extremely safe because of the added steps in the manufacturing process that inactivate or remove viruses.
Is Canadian Blood Services involved in the collection of convalescent plasma for a potential treatment for COVID-19?
A. Canadian Blood Services is actively working with Health Canada and researchers, both nationally and internationally, who are looking at convalescent plasma as a potential treatment for COVID-19. Planning for a clinical trial in Canada is underway.
We will contribute by collecting and supplying plasma from fully-recovered COVID-19 patients in Canada.
Watch this video to learn more from our Chief Scientist, Dr. Dana Devine
What is Canadian Blood Services’ role when it comes to plasma protein products?
We are the national blood authority and blood system operator, which includes the collection of plasma for manufacturing into plasma protein products. In addition, Canadian Blood Services is responsible for the procurement and distribution of all plasma protein and related products to hospitals and clinics across Canada, on behalf of the provincial and territorial health systems (excluding Quebec).
We take this responsibility very seriously and we do everything we can to safeguard the activities that fall within our authority. This includes regular collaboration with health-care partners, patient groups and manufacturers to ensure clinicians have access to a safe and reliable national inventory of plasma protein and related products to care for their patients.
The evolving situation with COVID-19 is unprecedented, and Canadian Blood Services is focused on doing our part to help keep patients, families and communities safe.
How are decisions related to plasma protein products and the impact of COVID-19 being made?
While the evolving situation with COVID-19 is unprecedented, pandemic plans are in place and we are prepared to respond appropriately, as needed. Pandemic planning to safeguard the supply of blood and blood products is led by the National Emergency Blood Management Committee, which includes representation from provincial and territorial health systems, the National Advisory Committee on Blood and Blood Products and Canadian Blood Services.
To reduce my risk of exposure, can I send a designate to pick up my prescribed allotment of products from the hospital instead?
It is our understanding that individual health systems and/or hospitals have taken measures, where able, to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
We encourage patients to check with their local hospital or clinic staff to see whether procedures to assign a designate are in place or can be initiated to limit the potential risk of exposure during product pick up.
Can I pick up a larger allotment of the treatment I need to reduce the number of trips to the hospital I have to make to pick up my prescription?
Patients who self-administer plasma protein and related products at home pick up their products from hospitals and clinics as ordered by their doctor. The refill quantity is also determined by their doctor.
To balance the risk of potential exposure while maintaining the security of supply, as directed by the National Emergency Blood Management Committee, Canadian Blood Services will support hospitals and their patients by ensuring that the national inventory of plasma protein and related products will allow for a maximum refill quantity of three months of product for patients who are prescribed home infusion therapies.
Questions and answers: Stem Cells
Is there any impact for Canadian Blood Services Stem Cell Registry?
As with blood and blood products, Canadians rely on us to keep the stem cell program safe and we take this responsibility very seriously.
Canadian Blood Services Stem Cell Registry is a member of the World Marrow Donor Association (WMDA) – an international network of registries and cord blood banks that share a global database where all potential donors and cord blood units are listed. As cases of COVID-19 continue to emerge across the world, WMDA launched a special COVID-19 webpage that is publicly available and updated regularly when new information is shared by member organizations, professional societies and courier companies.
Canadian Blood Services will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation and provide updates as they are received. Our stem cell registry will continue to coordinate searches in Canada, as well as other international registries to help patients get the stem cells they need. Any critical information is being communicated to the corresponding transplant centre and/or registry to ensure that life-saving products are safely transported to patients in need. Our donors will continue to be screened for active infections and travel history.
Also, we have suspended all stem cell swabbing events across the country in line with guidance from the Public Health Agency of Canada to minimize the amount of time individuals spend in large crowds or in crowded spaces in order to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. It also is consistent with the public health measures being implemented by many of the provinces. We are encouraging the public to register online and get their swab kit delivered in the mail.
If you require assistance regarding activations currently in progress for any of the international registries in countries where COVID-19 cases have been recorded, please reach out to the transplant services coordinator team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Is there any impact for Canadian Blood Services’ Cord Blood Bank?
As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded, Canadian Blood Services’ Cord Blood Bank temporarily suspended cord blood collections at its four collection hospitals in Ottawa, Brampton, Edmonton and Vancouver. The suspension was guided by the recommendations from the Public Health Agency of Canada and the increasing hospital restrictions to limit the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
However, aligned with the public health decision to ease COVID-19 restrictions in most parts of the country, and in consultation with clinicians as hospitals gradually return to normal operations, Canadian Blood Services has resumed cord blood collection at all four collection hospitals.
We recognize and understand there may be concerns about the health and safety of mothers because of the COVID-19 pandemic. To maximize donor safety throughout the cord blood collection process, our partner hospitals have put appropriate physical distancing measures in place and will be taking every precaution, including the use of personal protective equipment. We are committed to ensuring mothers have a safe and rewarding donor experience.
For more information, visit blood.ca/donatecord.
Is it safe to go to a collection centre for my physical examination and to donate stem cells during the COVID-19 pandemic?
As the organization responsible for the national stem cell registry and cord blood bank outside Quebec, we are determined to keep our promise to help every patient, match every need and serve every Canadian. To do that we require the ongoing generosity and commitment of donors. Patients depend on these lifesaving donations. At the same time, we want to ensure the safety of our donors, employees and volunteers.
Canadian Blood Services is working closely with collection centres as well as with provincial/territorial partners, the Public Health Agency of Canada, Health Canada, Héma-Quebec, international blood agencies and the World Health Organization to prepare for and address the COVID-19 situation.
Our collection centres have appropriate physical distancing measures in place and will be taking every precaution to maximize donor safety throughout the donation process. We are always committed to ensuring you have a safe, efficient and rewarding donor experience. All prospective donors are carefully screened for any symptoms of illness, including very mild ones.
What is Canadian Blood Services doing to ensure donor safety?
Donor health and safety is our top priority. We understand that these are worrying times for both donors and patients. Thus, we have put several steps in place to support donors and ensure their safety.
To minimize physical interactions with adult donors, all donors undergo screening for symptoms of illness over the phone with a case manager at Canadian Blood Services before going to the collection centre – the hospital where the donor will donate their stem cells. Also, collection centres in Canada will be taking every precaution to maximize donor safety throughout the process. This includes physical distancing, staggered appointment times to avoid crowding of waiting areas, appropriate personal protective equipment for the physical exam, blood draws, and apheresis (most centres are using surgical masks for all interactions with patients and donors).
Bone marrow harvests have been postponed at most Canadian collection centres for the time being and will only be considered in exceptional situations if they can be accommodated. All peripheral blood stem cell collections will be done in a single procedure where possible, and without the insertion of central venous catheters – if possible. These measures should minimize exposures and maximize donor safety. Case managers will follow-up with donors only by telephone.
We are encouraging transplant centres to choose donors who live in proximity to collection centres. We are also keeping a list of available hotels for donors who would need accommodation.
For pregnant moms donating their babies cord blood during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are taking every step to maximize donor safety throughout the cord blood collection process. Our partner hospitals have put appropriate physical distancing measures in place and will be taking every precaution, including the use of personal protective equipment. We are committed to ensuring mothers have a safe and rewarding donor experience.
In addition to these steps, we have provided FAQs for staff to provide donors with the answers they need. We are also publishing regular updates on blood.ca to provide donors with facts and reassurance.
The COVID-19 pandemic is changing quickly. As the situation evolves, we will continue to make sure that we keep our donors, patients and employees informed of any changes.
What if I change my mind about donating stem cells?
You are free to decline to donate at any point in the process. Your decision will be confidential.
However, it is important to be aware that there is a serious risk of death to the patient if you decide to withdraw after his or her radiation and/or chemotherapy treatment has begun. You will be told in advance exactly when the patient will start this treatment and given every opportunity to decline before that date.
Why did you suspend the swabbing event in XYZ?
In line with the Public Health Agency of Canada’s guidelines on mass gatherings during COVID-19 global outbreak, we suspended all stem cell swabbing events across the country to minimize the amount of time individuals spend in large crowds or in crowded spaces in order to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. It also is consistent with the public health measures being implemented by many of the provinces. We are encouraging the public to register online and get their swab kit delivered in the mail.
Your decision to join our registry is essential to protect our most vulnerable community members. At the same time, we care about the health of our registrants, patients, employees and volunteers. Only healthy people are eligible to donate stem cells.
Canadian Blood Services will continue to evaluate the latest evidence and work closely with provincial/territorial partners, the Public Health Agency of Canada, Health Canada, Héma-Quebec, international blood agencies and the World Health Organization to prepare for and address the COVID-19 situation.
Does the COVID-19 pandemic call for increased recruitment of Canadian registrants?
The COVID-19 pandemic has made the logistics of stem cell transplants challenging due to international border closures, travel restrictions and the general health of donors. This means patients and transplant centres are now relying on more potential donors from Canada. We need more healthy Canadians, who are between 17 and 35 years old, to register online and get their swab kit delivered in the mail.
Financial gifts to Canadian Blood Services also help make a difference for patients by supporting donor recruitment efforts and strengthening our national stem cell program and initiatives.
What is the process to register online?
To register online, visit our stem cells page on blood.ca. You will be asked to read through the stem cell registration information before completing a quick knowledge test to ensure you have a basic understanding of stem cell donation.
Next, you’ll create a personal profile on blood.ca, complete the health screening questionnaire, and accept the Notice to Registrants and Consent to Participate. At that point, we’ll mail you a buccal swab kit to collect cell samples from your mouth. Once you receive your buccal swab kit, swab the inside of your cheek and mail it back. After we process your kit and obtain your HLA typing, you will be fully registered. You will be notified when this process is complete and that you are now officially on the registry.
We may be in touch by phone if we have questions about your health screening questionnaire or your registration information. Please note that your final eligibility rests with our staff.
Does it cost me anything to register online?
No. Registration is free, and you won’t be charged for any part of the testing or donation process.
Where can I find more information?
More information on the novel coronavirus can be found at the links below:
- Suspension of group swabbing events in response to COVID-19 pandemic
- Suspension of cord blood collections in response to COVID-19 pandemic
- Public Health Agency of Canada: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/health-professionals.html
- World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019
- Centers for Disease Control Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html
More information on Canadian Blood Services Stem Cell Program:
Questions and answers: Organs and Tissues
Is COVID-19 affecting deceased organ donation and transplantation?
Canadian Blood Services continues to work closely with the OTDT community, our national advisory committees, the Canadian Society of Transplantation, and other stakeholders to monitor how the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic affects organ donation and transplantation. Because the situation continues to evolve and is unique in each jurisdiction, please contact your provincial or territorial organ and tissue program for details.
Is it safe to have a transplant during the COVID-19 pandemic?
A transplant can save a life, but it also weakens the immune system, which makes someone more likely to get sick from viruses. All organ donors are being tested for COVID-19, but the virus spreads easily. That’s why transplant teams across Canada are determining how best to proceed for the health of their patients. Talk to your transplant team if you have more questions.
Can I get COVID-19 from an organ transplant?
So far there are no reported cases of someone getting COVID-19 from a transplant; however, there is still a lot that is unknown about how the virus spreads. Potential organ donors are tested for COVID-19 and if they test positive they will not be able to donate.
Can organs of deceased donors be transplanted if the donor contracted COVID-19 before their death?
At this time, all organ and tissues from deceased donors with known or highly suspected cases of COVID-19 will not be eligible for transplant.
Is the Kidney Paired Donation program still operating?
The Kidney Paired Donation program has resumed after a temporary pause in response to COVID-19. We are working with the living donation and transplant programs across the country to safely match donor and patient pairs to help enable more kidney transplants in Canada.
Has the Highly Sensitized Patient program been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
The Highly Sensitized Patient (HSP) program continues to operate. Individual programs determine if an offer from the registry can be accepted based on their hospital’s policies and processes for deceased donor organ transplantation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Has eye or tissue donation and transplant been impacted by the pandemic?
In response to COVID-19, hospitals cancelled elective surgeries, resulting in a reduced demand for tissues. Collection and transplant of tissues has since started to resume and is returning to normal. Local transplant programs will continue to determine how best to proceed for the health of their patients and have their own measures in place for emergencies. For more information please contact your local transplant program.
I’m on a waitlist, will I still get a transplant?
During COVID-19, Canada’s transplant programs are reviewing cases individually and will determine whether it is safe to proceed with transplantation. After having a transplant your immune system is weak, making you more likely to get sick. Your transplant physician can advise on whether a transplant is appropriate for you during the pandemic.
Will patients lose their place on the waitlist if delays or cancellations continue?
Transplant programs continue to weigh the risks and benefits of who can safely be transplanted when an organ becomes available.
What steps can I take to ensure my safety? To protect myself?
Transplant recipients are immunocompromised and may be at increased risk of more severe outcomes related to COVID-19. For this reason, it is important to take precautions to prevent infection. We recommend patients contact their transplant program or their local public health office for advice. Public Health Agency of Canada also provides guidance on how high-risk people can stay safe: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/diseases-conditions/people-high-risk-for-severe-illness-covid-19.html
Questions and answers: Other ways to donate
Are there any other ways I can help patients during the COVID-19 pandemic?
There are many ways to donate and help patients. You can volunteer your time at a donor clinic or make a one-time or recurring financial donation. Financial gifts to Canadian Blood Services help make a difference for patients by supporting donor recruitment efforts and strengthening our national programs and initiatives for blood, stem cells, and organs and tissues. Financial gifts also help fuel research and drive world-class innovation in blood transfusion and transplantation medicine. Learn more at give.blood.ca.
I was in the process of planning a fundraising event in support of Canadian Blood Services – should I cancel my event?
Given recommendations from the Public Health Agency of Canada to cancel or postpone in-person gatherings in alignment with the recommendations of your local public health authorities, we understand that you may decide to postpone your upcoming event to a later date.
If you are a fundraising event organizer and have questions or require guidance related to postponing your upcoming event — or, if you wish to shift your fundraising event to an online/virtual campaign — please reach out to our philanthropy department by phone (613-739-2339) or email (email@example.com).