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COVID-19 vaccines do not wipe out antibodies

May 27, 2021 GMT

CLAIM: The Red Cross says if you recovered from COVID-19 and had a vaccine, you cannot donate blood plasma because the vaccine wipes out natural antibodies.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The Red Cross did not make that statement. The organization is accepting blood and plasma donations from people who have been vaccinated, but has discontinued an earlier initiative to collect convalescent plasma from recovered COVID-19 to treat those with the virus. Experts say COVID-19 vaccines do not wipe out natural antibodies from COVID-19, and instead boost antibodies.

THE FACTS: As of March 26, the Red Cross discontinued the dedicated collection of COVID-19 convalescent plasma due to declining demand from hospitals and a sufficient industry supply. Posts online are now misrepresenting the change and are spreading the false claim that the Red Cross is no longer taking any plasma donations from those who have had the COVID-19 virus and received a vaccine.

Social media users are sharing a February clip from KMOV-4, a CBS-affiliate news station in Missouri, where the anchor incorrectly says that because COVID-19 vaccines wipe out natural antibodies, the Red Cross is no longer accepting convalescent plasma from people who are vaccinated.

“If you have had covid and recovered you can donate plasma to help save lifes UNLESS YOU GET THE VACCINE after having recovered,” reads an inaccurate tweet that shared the video.

Posts with the video were widely shared across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Red Cross spokeswoman Katie Wilkes told The Associated Press that the information included in the broadcast about the vaccine wiping out natural antibodies was inaccurate. She said the Red Cross had reached out to the news station to correct the information.

Wilkes also said that even though the dedicated convalescent plasma program was discontinued, vaccinated people are still able to participate in blood drives. “In most cases, you can donate blood, platelets and plasma after a COVID-19 vaccine as long as you’re feeling healthy and well,” she said.

KMOV-4 updated their story on May 27 after the AP contacted the station.

“Today News4 updated a story we reported in February,” a station spokesperson said in an email. “At that time, a representative of the American Red Cross said the organization’s policy was to discourage convalescent plasma donations from donors who previously had COVID-19 and were then vaccinated because of a then-belief about antibodies.”

Experts say the recent posts about antibodies get it all wrong. Dr. C. Buddy Creech, a Vanderbilt University vaccine expert, said there is no reason to suspect that COVID-19 vaccines would diminish antibodies. In fact, vaccines should amplify them.

Vaccines produce a more consistent immune response to the coronavirus, since mild infections lead to lower antibody levels than more severe infections, Creech explained.

“This is why those who have been infected still benefit from vaccination; that vaccine will then serve to boost the immune response that was made during the initial infection,” Creech said in an email.

Matthew Frieman, associate professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, agreed.

“If you were previously infected and then get vaccinated, the antibodies you produce are going to only be boosted for the Spike protein, the only viral protein in the vaccines,” Frieman said in an email.

In April, the Red Cross refuted earlier false claims that the organization would not accept plasma donations from people who have had the COVID-19 vaccine.

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536