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Confusion surrounding vaccination and blood drives resolved

Princeton had not informed students vaccine would prevent them from donating blood

Individuals who received the meningococcal disease vaccine were not originally eligible to donate blood because of the vaccine’s unlicensed status in the United States. However, individuals are now eligible to donate blood, officials at the American Red Cross said.

During the first round of the vaccination campaign, the University did not notify students that receiving the vaccination would prevent them from participating in blood drives. University Spokesperson Martin Mbugua said that the eligibility concern surrounding blood donations was not a concern at the time.

“No, [the statement regarding blood donation prevention] was not included in the consent form because the question had not come up at that time,” Mbugua said. “It came up during a recent blood drive and, since then, the University worked with the Red Cross leading up to the decision this week.”

The decision to allow students who have received the vaccine to donate blood came at approximately 1 p.m. on Feb. 17.

Peter Johnsen, the director of medical services at University Health Services, deferred comment to the Red Cross.

Previous regulation by the Food and Drug Administration prevented students from participating in blood drives because the American Association of Blood Banks requires a 12-month deferral for donors who have received an unlicensed vaccine or a vaccine not approved by the FDA. However, the Red Cross successfully filed a Transmittal Authority document preventing the deferral and allowing students who got the meningitis vaccine to donate blood. The document was filed just in time for a blood drive that took place on campus Monday and Tuesday in Whig Hall.

Though it is now clear that students are allowed to give blood, the Red Cross was previously unsure about whether or not the vaccine would prevent students from donating blood.

“We have a document enforced by the FDA that says that our medical doctor cannot approve [the blood donation],” Carol Field, account executive, said of the previous regulation. “We have another document enforced that basically counteracts what that document says, and it stipulates that a medical doctor can make a decision regarding this vaccine.”

The document filed by the Red Cross was approved on Monday and mediates the two previously contradictory FDA documents with the University’s blood donation program, Field said.

The delay in the approval of University student blood donations was not due to potential biological concerns with the vaccine, Field noted. Because the American Red Cross is regulated by the FDA for collection activities and donation eligibilities, the Transmittal Authority document was necessary to allow medical officials to make the proper determination.

Jake Kramer ’17 was told on Monday at the blood drive that he could donate blood as long as the first dose of the vaccination was administered at least eight weeks ago.

“I was happy that I was able to give blood. I regularly give blood as frequently as I can, and I’m glad that the first meningitis vaccine didn’t interfere with me giving blood this time,” Kramer said.

The entire undergraduate population, as well as members of the University community with certain medical conditions and graduate students living in undergraduate dorms and the Graduate College, can receive the first and second doses of the meningococcal disease vaccination for free from noon to 8 p.m., Monday through Thursday of this week.

Correction: Due to a reporting error, an earlier version of this article inaccurately stated a quote by University Spokesperson Martin Mbugua. The ‘Prince’ regrets the error. 

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