COVID-19 information

Canadian Blood Services is responsible for the safety of the national blood supply system(excluding in Quebec).

During this difficult time, we will continue to deliver on this promise.

For media email media@blood.ca.

 

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It’s safe to donate blood during COVID-19, and critical for patients

We urge all donors to book and keep their appointments to prevent shortages

Canadian Blood Services is concerned by a recent spike in appointment cancellations in several cities related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read more...

As the organization responsible for the national blood system 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. Every day blood products are needed for patients undergoing surgery, cancer treatments, and to save lives following traumas such as motor vehicle accidents. Donating blood in Canada continues to be safe. Our robust cleaning and infection-control practices protect all donors, staff and volunteers, as do the enhanced wellness measures introduced in response to COVID-19. All prospective donors are carefully screened for any symptoms of illness, including very mild ones. This screening occurs during both appointment booking and -at a wellness checkpoint at each donor centre or event. Those with any symptoms are not allowed to donate blood and are instructed not to visit.

We are also 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. Information about the current criteria is available in the Q & A section of our COVID-19 page. If you have any questions about your eligibility contact 1 888 2 DONATE (1-888-236-6283).

We also encourage donors to complete their health questionnaire online on the day of donation before coming in to donate. If you answer “yes” to any of the questions (except for “Are you feeling well today?”) including those about COVID-19 exposure please contact 1-888-2-DONATE (1-888-236-6283) before coming in to donate.

We urge all healthy eligible donors to book and keep appointments. The need is constant for blood, stem cells, plasma and organ and tissue donors.

More information on COVID-19 is available on our COVID-19 page. . To make an appointment to donate, download the GiveBlood app, call 1 888 2 DONATE (1-888-236-6283) or book now at blood.ca.

Questions and answers: Blood and Plasma Donation

Last updated: April 1, 2020

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 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) 
What enhanced measures are being taken to protect donors, employees and volunteers at our donor centres?

Canadian Blood Services’ protocols for screening donors and cleaning our donor centres have always been extremely robust — respiratory infections are common and we are prepared. However, as information about COVID-19 quickly evolves, we are taking additional measures to enhance our protocols to better protect anyone who comes through our doors. 

Enhanced cleaning measures 

Canadian Blood Services is adhering to the guidance of subject matter experts, and international, federal and provincial agencies, and have increased the frequency of cleaning within our donor centres. We will continue to ensure that the products we use effectively kill viruses on a variety of surfaces. 

The frequency of cleaning has been increased for all equipment and surfaces. Notably, we have enhanced our protocols for high traffic areas and resources — including donor beds, which will now be wiped down after each use, and pamphlets that will be either laminated and cleaned after each use or disposed of after a single use. 

Additional wellness protocols 

Even though the majority of individuals who may come into our donor centres with mild symptoms will not have COVID-19, donors, employees and volunteers will be prompted before entering our buildings to carefully evaluate whether they are feeling well. Donors will be asked to self-defer and employees and volunteers will be asked not to enter the building if they are symptomatic. 

As an additional precaution, healthy individuals who enter our donor centres will be immediately asked to sanitize their hands and practice proper 20-second handwashing, coughing and sneezing etiquette. They will also be reminded to avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth and avoid close contact with others who are not feeling well. 

Individuals who enter our centres displaying symptoms will be provided with a mask and asked to leave. Additional cleaning and safety measures include: 

  • Enhanced frequency of cleaning of all equipment and surfaces 

  • Active wellness screening before individuals enter the building and at their first point of contact when they enter 

  • Donor beds wiped down after each use 

  • Donor information pamphlet laminated and wiped down after each use (or discarded after each use if lamination isn’t an option) 

  • Donor zip lock bags (that your information and blood bags are put in) are one use 

  • When on donation beds, donors will be at a minimum of 6 feet apart 

  • When sitting on a waiting chair, donors will be at a minimum of 3 feet apart

  • We continue to assess our cleaning products to ensure they are used in accordance with PHAC recommendations for effectively killing 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.

Suspending pre-donation snacks in donor centres:  

To further protect the health and safety of all individuals who walk through our doors, effective March 27, we are suspending the use of pre-donation salty snacks in our donor centres and mobile events. This is a responsible step to limit the risk of spread through touching the mouth with fingers directly prior to the donation process. We are implementing the following measures to ensure that donors continue to have a safe donation experience:  

  • Donors will be reminded prior to their donation that they should eat a salty snack in addition to drinking lots of water before their arrival. 

  • During their donation, our team will be asking donors to perform muscle tension exercises to prevent post-donation reactions. 

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.  

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. 

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.  

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.  

  • 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. 

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.

Is your staff using personal protective equipment in your donor centres?

Effective Tuesday, March 31, Canadian Blood Services has implemented the following personal protective equipment measures: 

  • We will be making surgical masks available to frontline staff in all donor centres. 

  • Universal use of gloves throughout the donor centre environment. 

  • Planning is underway for the implementation of physical barriers where effective physical distancing is not possible. 

Will Canadian Blood Services will be installing any other personal protective equipment, like plastic visors, face shields and plexiglass barrriers, in its donor centres? 

At this time, we are exploring all available options to ensure our staff and donors feel safe. We will communicate further measures as we have developments. 

Questions and answers: Plasma Protein and Related Products

Last updated: March 28, 2020

What about medicines made from plasma? Is there risk to patient users because of COVID-19?

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. We work closely with manufactures that make plasma protein products for use in Canada. Currently, COVID-19 has had no impact on our supplies. We will continue to closely monitor the situation and we will be prepared to respond accordingly should the situation change. 

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

Questions and answers: Stem Cells

Last updated: March 22, 2020

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 buccal 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, including the recently announced school closures in Ontario. 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 cbs.onematch@blood.ca

Is there any impact for Canadian Blood Services’ Cord Blood Bank?

Following new recommendations from the Public Health Agency of Canada, as well as increasing hospital restrictions and resource availability, Canadian Blood Services’ Cord Blood Bank temporarily suspended its collections at 11 p.m. on March 16, 2020 for an indefinite period to contribute to the collective efforts in limiting the spread of COVID-19

We realize this decision may affect many families who had registered to donate their babies’ cord blood at one of our four cord blood collection hospitals across the country. We will resume collections as soon as deemed appropriate. 

For patients who might be concerned, Canadian Blood Services’ Cord Blood Bank continues to follow all standards and regulations as per usual, and we are working within the latest recommendations from 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. We will continue to help patients get the stem cells they need. 

Is it safe to go to a collection hospital 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 hospitals 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. 

As of yet, there has been no risk with donating stem cells at our collection hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic. Donating stem cells in Canada continues to be safe. 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 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. 

Does the COVID-19 pandemic call for increased recruitment of Canadian registrants?

The fluidity of the COVID-19 pandemic across the world might mean that transplant centres in Canada turn to more Canadian donors to help save the lives of patients in need of stem cell transplants. 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. 

Questions and answers: Organs and Tissues

Last updated: March 24, 2020

Can I be a living donor if I contract COVID-19?

At this time, all living organ and tissue donors with known or highly suspected active COVID-19 will be deferred. Living donor donations will be postponed for 3 months after resolution of clinical symptoms of infection. 

Can organs of deceased donors be transplanted if the donor contracted COVID-19 before their death?

At this time, all deceased organ and tissue donors with known or highly suspected active COVID-19 will be deferred. 

Will COVID-19 affect deceased organ donation and transplantation?

Canadian Blood Services is working closely with the OTDT community, our national advisory committees, the Canadian Society of Transplantation, and other stakeholders to closely monitor the situation. Because the situation is rapidly evolving and unique in each jurisdiction, please contact your provincial organ and tissue program for details. 

Is deceased donation and transplantation safe during the pandemic?

Organ donation and transplantation is an essential life-saving and life-preserving medical intervention. However, transplant recipients are, or are likely to become, immunocompromised and may be at increased risk of more severe outcomes related to COVID-19. 
 
The decision to go forward with deceased donation and transplantation must balance the risk the virus poses to potential recipients and the risks of suspending or delaying transplantation. It will also depend on the prevalence of COVID-19 in a particular area, individual hospital capacity and other safety and resource considerations. 

Because the situation is rapidly evolving and unique in each jurisdiction, please contact your provincial organ and tissue program for details. 

I have heard that the Kidney Paired Donation program is no longer operating. Is that true?

All donation and transplant surgeries related to the Kidney Paired Donation (KPD) program have been postponed for a minimum of six weeks, effective Monday, March 16.  

Surgeries will be rescheduled once there is a consensus that it is safe to do so for both donors and recipients. 

Why have Kidney Paired Donation surgeries been postponed?

The decision to postpone these surgeries is based on the following: 

  • the potential risks of COVID-19 exposure for donors who would need to travel to donate; 

  • the potential risk of COVID-19 exposure to transplant recipients who may receive an organ from someone who has the virus but did not test positive;  

  • the likelihood that surgeries, even if planned, will not go forward during the COVID-19 pandemic. The KPD program relies on multiple hospitals to facilitate multiple transplantations and all of the surgeries must be completed within a specific timeframe. If one hospital postpones a surgery, it prevents all of the other surgeries from going forward. 

How long will Kidney Paired Donation surgeries be postponed?

All donation and transplant surgeries related to the Kidney Paired Donation (KPD) program have been postponed for a minimum of six weeks, effective Monday, March 16. 

Canadian Blood Services and the medical professionals involved in the program will reassess the situation on a regular basis. Normal operations of KPD will resume as soon as there is a consensus that it is safe to do so for both donors and patients. 

We truly sympathize with donors and transplant candidates who may be affected by this delay. We believe strongly in the powerful impact of the KPD program, and do not make decisions to delay transplant lightly. The safety of donors and transplant candidates is paramount. 

Has the Highly Sensitized Patient program been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?

The Highly Sensitized Patient (HSP) program will continue to operate until further notice. 

Individual programs will determine if an offer from the registry will be accepted based on their hospital’s policies and processes for deceased donor organ transplantation during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Is there a risk of COVID-19 being passed on through organ donation?

Currently, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 being transmitted through the donation of blood, organs, tissues and stem cells. All potential donors must have negative test results before proceeding with the transplant.

Are transplant candidates at risk from COVID-19?

Canadian Blood Services is closely monitoring the situation in collaboration with the OTDT community, our national advisory committees, the Canadian Society of Transplantation, and other stakeholders. Because the situation is rapidly evolving and unique in each jurisdiction, please contact your provincial organ and tissue program for details. 

I’m disappointed that my loved one won’t be able to donate.

We truly sympathize with donors and transplant candidates who may be affected by this situation. We believe in the powerful impact of organ donation and would like to reassure you that decisions by health care practitioners to delay organ donation and transplantation are not taken lightly. 

Organ donation and transplantation is an essential life-saving and life-preserving medical intervention. However, transplant recipients are, or are likely to become, immunocompromised and may be at increased risk of more severe outcomes related to COVID-19. 
 
The decision to go forward with deceased donation and transplantation must balance the risk the virus poses to potential recipients and the risks of suspending or delaying transplantation. It will also depend on the prevalence of COVID-19 in a particular area, individual hospital capacity, and other safety and resource considerations. 

Because the situation is rapidly evolving and unique in each jurisdiction, please contact your provincial organ and tissue program for details. 

What is Canadian Blood Services doing to support the OTDT community during the COVID-19 pandemic?

We are working closely with the OTDT community, our national advisory committees, the Canadian Society of Transplantation, and other stakeholders to closely monitor the situation, to develop and share resources to support the system, and to facilitate communication and knowledge-sharing among provinces and internationally. 

We are working tirelessly with organ donation partners both at home and abroad to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and offer the best possible outcome for Canadians during these challenging times. 

The current outbreak is unpredictable. If widespread community transmission occurs, healthcare infrastructure and capacity issues may have further impact on organ donation and transplantation.