OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – If you have donated blood sometime in the first two weeks of May, you might have also gotten a COVID-19 antibody test to go along with your donation.
The Oklahoma Blood Institute is offering a limited number of antibody tests at certain blood drives, only about 20 drives so far.
They’re offering the tests as an incentive for some of its drives.
“Gives people some peace of mind,” said OBI President and CEO Dr. John Armitage. “Maybe they have an illness and they were concerned, what was that illness, was that actually COVID that I had.”
The test hasn’t been fully approved by the FDA, and technically OBI cannot make diagnoses.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean you had it. There are such things as false positives,” Dr. Armitage said, “but it’s information you can put into context.”
It can be informative, and if a person’s blood tests positive, they can donate convalescent plasma after a couple months.
OBI leaders are hoping the curiosity will draw donors out in a time when blood drives have been scarce thanks to business and school closures.
According to the OBI, 1,200 blood donors are needed everyday to help supply the vast majority of blood needed for surgeries and emergencies, medical situations that are expected to pick up as the state reopens.
“A lot of the industrial accidents aren’t happening because businesses are closed, the traffic accidents are way down,” Dr. Armitage said.
However, because the test requires a lot of time and resources, right now, only a limited number of donors at certain blood drives can be tested. Leaders at OBI are urging people not to call or walk into its locations requesting the test because for now they’re not available.
“We don’t have the full capacity up, we don’t have the trained staff, and we don’t have all the lab muscle we would like to have to be able to do more of it,” Dr. Armitage said. We’re trying to build that, it’s growing, but right now we can’t offer it to everybody.”
Blood drives that do offer the testing will be listed on the OBI website and it’s by appointment only.
In the meantime, OBI leaders are urging anyone who can to continue to donate blood, maybe even once more than usual this year to make up for time lost thanks to the need for social distancing.
“The last thing we want is somebody who needs blood not to have it,” Dr. Armitage said.