A Montana Republican is proposing a bill that would prohibit those who have gotten a COVID-19 immunization or have “long COVID” from donating blood—a plan that some critics argue would effectively eliminate the state’s blood supply.
House Bill 645, which was formally introduced in the Montana State Legislature on February 17, proposes a misdemeanor charge for anyone who knowingly donates whole blood, plasma, blood products, blood derivatives, human tissue, organs, or bones containing “gene-altering proteins, nanoparticles, high-count spike proteins from long covid-19, or other isolates introduced by mRNA or DNA vaccines, mRNA or DNA chemotherapies, or other novel mRNA”
The legislation, which has yet to receive a committee vote, comes over what the bill’s sponsor, Representative Greg Kmetz, described as fears from his constituents of ensuring a “safe” blood supply—even as experts assert that it is safe to donate blood after receiving a COVID vaccine or being diagnosed with COVID.
“Many of my constituents question just because we hear these two words, ‘safe and effective,’ a million plus times, does that make them true?” Kmetz asked colleagues in a hearing on the bill last week. “[…] These are the people that are concerned about our blood supply. These are the people that put me in this office. These are the people that I represent.”
Kmetz has received support from fellow Republicans, including the bill’s requester, Rep. Jodee Etchart, and Rep. Lola Sheldon-Galloway.
Several of the issues raised by the bill’s supporters were supported by untrustworthy or even biased material.
Several supporters of the bill alleged, without providing evidence, that friends and family died prematurely as a result of obtaining the vaccine. There is currently no evidence that the COVID vaccination causes early death.
Another woman cited a Facebook post promoting claims that COVID-19 immunizations caused fibrous clots in the blood of embalmed corpses, a conclusion that medical fact checkers have already rejected as the result of a very defective study.
Others expressed concern over an increase in myocarditis instances among teenagers who received certain types of vaccine, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed to be uncommon.
Meanwhile, opponents of the law, including several medical experts, claimed that its language was extremely broad and would effectively deplete Montana’s blood and organ donor supply.
According to CDC data, about two-thirds of Montana residents have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccination, but only 3% of eligible donors nationwide donate blood. Cliff Numark, the Senior Vice President of Donor Services for blood supplier organization Vitalant, claimed the law would inflict “devastating injury” to the state’s healthcare system, and could lower the state’s overall blood supply by as much as 80 percent.
According to Numark, there is no test available to determine whether the vaccine was in someone’s system, making the bill impossible to implement if it becomes law.
Vitalant has been urging blood donors to come forward in recent weeks, as a scarcity has been exacerbated by bad weather. According to the American Red Cross, which announced its first-ever blood crisis in January 2022, someone in the United States requires blood and/or platelets every two seconds.
“Our blood is safe,” Vicky Byrd, CEO of the Montana Nurses Association, told lawmakers. “Our scientists and our practitioners, we have to trust them. We know what they’re doing.”
While COVID-19 patients are prohibited from donating blood while infected with the virus (due to the requirement that donors be in “excellent health” when donating), all blood donation organizations and the American Red Cross have stated that it is safe to donate blood after getting the vaccination.
“Blood donations from individuals who have received a COVID-19 vaccine approved or authorized for use in the U.S. are safe for transfusion,” Red Cross officials revealed in a statement.
“Similar to other vaccines such as those for measles, mumps or influenza, COVID-19 vaccines are designed to generate an immune response to help protect an individual from illness, but vaccine components themselves do not replicate through blood transfusions or alter a blood recipient’s DNA.
“In summary, there is no scientific evidence that demonstrates adverse outcomes from the transfusions of blood products collected from vaccinated donors and, therefore, no medical reason to distinguish or separate blood donations from individuals who have received a COVID-19 vaccination,” they said.
Despite opponents of the measure claimed there was no evidence to support a restriction on vaccinated donors providing blood, supporters claimed this was due to a lack of studies.
In practice, Numark believes a prohibition would result in “unnecessary and immoral” deaths.
“This house bill would criminalize the act of attempting to altruistically donate blood,” Numark said. “It would decimate the blood supply.”