Q: I got a COVID mRNA vaccine. Can I donate blood? If my blood is given to someone who just received their booster shot and then needed blood, could it cause damage to them because they received too much messenger RNA at one time?
Colón: You absolutely can donate blood after receiving a vaccine without any concern. Receiving a transfusion from someone who is vaccinated will not put that person at any risk from too much of a response. When we donate blood, it is only a small amount of our blood that is given and then received.
Pook: If you received an mRNA vaccine such as Moderna or Pfizer, you may donate immediately after vaccination as long as you are feeling well and the other donor criteria are met. The mRNA from the vaccine will not cause harm to the recipient, even if they just received a booster.
Q: In light of Omicron, is it safe to get together for Christmas or other holidays?
Pook: The safest way to gather for the holidays is to ensure that all eligible persons are vaccinated. Another layer of security that’s available is getting tested in advance of the gathering. Those who are at higher risk due to age or immunocompromised may continue to mask up indoors and have the option of wearing a more protective N95 mask. Improving air circulation or going to an outdoor venue may also be an option.
Colón: As with last year’s holiday season, there is a great deal of disease activity throughout the country at this time. However, vaccines offer a safer environment for family gatherings this year than last year. Given that the Delta variant remains the dominant variant in the United States, that should be the main focus for concern during gatherings this year. I do believe that getting together in small gatherings with others who are fully vaccinated is a safe plan this year.
Q: I previously had COVID-19. Doesn’t that protect me from reinfection? Why do I need a vaccine?
Pook: Emerging evidence shows that getting a COVID-19 vaccine after you recover from COVID-19 illness provides added protection to your immune system. Research shows you can double your protection from reinfection with the vaccine after illness.
Colón: There is indeed some protection offered from a previous infection — what some call “natural immunity.” However, we do not yet know for certain which is better. What has been demonstrated repeatedly is that vaccination after infection produces a very high degree of protection.
Q: Do vaccines prevent the spread of COVID-19 or just protect recipients from severe illness?
Pook: COVID-19 vaccines can reduce the risk of spreading the virus, especially if all eligible persons, people age 5 and up, are vaccinated.
Colón: COVID-19 vaccines are best at helping prevent death and severe illness from COVID-19. However, being immunized can also reduce the risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 as well.
Have questions about COVID-19, face masks, vaccines, testing, quarantining or anything else pandemic-related? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Answers from local experts will be published regularly in print and online.