U.S.: Bill Prohibiting Vaccinated Blood Donations Would ‘Decimate’ Blood Supply, Opponents Claim

bag of blood

 

Opponents of House Bill 645 claim that a measure prohibiting donors who have received the COVID-19 immunization from giving blood will “decimate” Montana’s blood supply and put patients at risk of death.

“Montana’s blood supply might be reduced by up to 80%, resulting in severe patient outcomes such as unnecessary and unconscionable death,” said Cliff Numark, senior vice president of blood collection nonprofit Vitalant.

According to Numark, most blood banks are barely fulfilling patient needs today, and with an 80% decrease in blood supply, treatments for accident victims, pregnancy difficulties, and more ordinary blood transfusions would be impossible.

Those who have received the COVID-19 vaccine are prohibited from donating blood, and donating or accepting blood from vaccinated donors is a misdemeanor punishable by a $500 fine under House Bill 645. Those who have been diagnosed with “Long COVID,” which is medically defined as “postacute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 due to chronic 27 SARS-CoV-2 viral infection,” would also be prohibited under the bill.

In addition to causing a serious blood shortage in the state, opponents claim that there is no way to test blood for both Long COVID and the vaccinations.

However, supporters claimed that the law, which was a continuation of anti-vaccine legislation approved during the previous session, was about medical autonomy and the freedom to take blood from donors who had not been vaccinated against COVID-19.

READ ALSO: Republicans Want to Ban People Vaccinated for COVID From Donating Blood In U.S.

“We hear these two words ‘safe and effective’ a million plus times. Does that make them true?” said bill sponsor Rep. Greg Kmetz, R- Miles City.

Kmetz incorporated language from anti-vaccine legislation enacted last year, House Bill 702, which prohibited discrimination based on immunization status, according to emails exchanged throughout the drafting process. In December, a section of that bill was ruled unconstitutional.

Rep. Lola Sheldon-Galloway, vice-chairwoman of the House Human Services Committee, was one of the bill’s supporters. She reiterated statements made in the film “Died Suddenly” that had already been refuted. According to her brother, a mortician, the immunization caused problems with blood flow.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, respiratory viruses are not often transferred by blood transfusion, and no cases of transfusion-transmitted COVID-19 have been reported.

Other proponents said that blood recipients should not have to worry about adverse effects in an emergency situation.

“I’m one of many who believe in the God given right of medical freedom, which is having access to genetically unmodified blood during a time of need,” said Jo Vilhauer from Miles City. “This is a vital part of health autonomy.”

Dr. Michael Busch, director of the Vitalant Research Center, which monitors antibody levels in blood supply samples in the United States, told Kaiser Health News that more than 90% of current donors have either been infected with COVID or have been vaccinated against it.

The Montana Nurses Association, the Montana Hospital Association, the Montana Medical Association, the Montana Primary Care Association, and others were among the opponents.

Dr. Walter Kelley, Chief Medical Officer for the American Red Cross in the Western United States, stated that this law would “decimate” Montana’s blood supply because 80% of the state has received at least one dose of the vaccine.

READ ALSO: Blood Donors are Needed in Steamboat Springs from March 22–23 Due to a Prolonged Shortage

“This bill will put patients’ lives in jeopardy, and this bill needs to be removed,” Kelley said.

According to Numark, senior vice president of a blood collection nonprofit, there is no method to test for the bill’s components, which include “gene-altering proteins, nanoparticles, high-count spike proteins from extended COVID-19, and other DNA chemotherapies,” among other COVID-19-related prohibitions.

“There’s no test to do that, so we would not be able to comply to determine whether people have received it or not,” he said.

In answer to committee questions, Numark stated that it would be possible to ask donors if they had gotten the COVID-19 vaccine as part of an intake form, but that the bill’s criminal liability complicates matters.

Rep. Jodee Etchart, R-Billings, questioned sponsor Kmetz if he had considered having a system of two blood banks, one vaccinated and one unvaccinated. Etchart had collaborated with Kmetz on legislation concerning COVID and the blood supply.

Kmetz stated that he had spoken with constituents who do not want “vaccinated blood making a patient’s health issue worse.”

“We are not going to consider that,” Kmetz said.

Kmetz asked a bill drafter throughout the drafting process if it was possible to allow for the separation of blood supply in order to make the law “less contentious.” The drafter indicated she could insert that phrase, but she wasn’t aware with the complexities of the process and couldn’t say whether it was possible.

When the bill was being prepared, Etchart asked in an email whether anyone would be eligible to donate blood under the language of the bill at the time. She claims that practically the whole population has either had COVID-19 or has been immunized.

“The way it appears, no one will qualify, and this bill will go down so fast it isn’t even worth bringing,” Etchart said.

Pharmacist Colleen Baker with Morgan Creek Compounding Pharmacy, suggested language to better define long-haul COVID-19.

Former Rep. Krayton Kerns, R-Laurel, was integral to the drafting process and characterized the need for the legislation as critical.

“An immediate effective date would fit this building emergency,” he said in a January email.

The committee did not immediately take action on the bill.

 

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