OneBlood donation centers are now offering free COVID-19 antibody tests to anyone who donates blood, just as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says that antibody tests are only accurate 50 percent of the time.
OneBlood, the not-for-profit blood center with locations in Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama, has been testing all blood donations for the COVID-19 antibody since mid-May.The antibody test has been the newest factor many governors point to as a safety procedure necessary for a return to some type of normal. This was undermined by the Center for Disease Control's ruling that the antibody test is still too new to determine with 100 percent accuracy who has antibodies, not to mention the CDC still doesn't know what having antibodies exactly means for an individual.
The CDC issued new guidelines for antibody testing that suggest using a test that has 99 percent or greater specificity. The greater the specificity level, the more sensitive a test is at detecting antibodies, increasing the chances that the results are correct.
OneBlood uses a Food and Drug Administration-approved test called the Ortho Clinical Diagnostics Vitros Anti-SARS-CoV2 Total Test, which has a specificity level of 100 percent. This is a good test to take according to the CDC guidelines, however, there is still a chance that the test result is not correct either.
A higher percentage of COVID-19 cases in your area contributes to a more accurate test result as well. The CDC recommends that you test twice for antibodies to be sure of the result, but this is difficult when you are donating blood.
Prior to the CDC news of inaccuracies with antibody testing, I made my own appointment at a local OneBlood mobile bus clinic, where I arrived masked to donate blood.
I was greeted by masked employees who inserted the needle while aI was seated and then laid me down on a disinfected bed to start the process of donating, which took 14 minutes. Within 48 hours after my donation, I had my results for antibodies through an online donor portal. Negative. I am also not able to donate blood again until July 18, leaving a large gap of time in between taking two antibody tests, which the CDC does not know if this will impact test results.
"We have one of the best tests that are out there right now that are authorized by the FDA, so that's not something that is an issue with the test that we are providing," said Susan Forbes, OneBlood’s senior vice president of corporate communications and public relations.
We reached out to OneBlood for information on how many tests have been administered since starting the program, and how many people have tested positive so far for the antibodies, but so far they are not releasing figures. OneBlood is still helping Florida Gov. DeSantis determine safe options to integrate everyone back into a more normal life. They are providing statistics to the state government, but not yet for the public.
"OneBlood is working closely with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees M.D., to provide de-identified data on the number of people testing positive and the geographical location," Forbes said. "This information will help in decision making for reopening the economy."
OneBlood is not the only blood bank offering free antibody testing with blood donations. The Blood Connection, a blood bank serving North and South Carolina, is also offering the same deal.
The main reason that blood centers are offering free antibody testing when people donate blood is to potentially use their positive-tested blood to boost the immune system of those critically suffering from COVID-19.
"In addition to donors learning if they have the antibody, OneBlood will be identifying additional people who can be COVID-19 convalescent plasma donors," Forbes said.
OneBlood has been collecting and distributing convalescent plasma, the blood from people who do accurately test positive for COVID-19 antibodies, since April.
To donate blood through OneBlood and get a free antibody test, schedule your appointment online or through the phone. There are four area locations around Orlando, with many more across the state. Make sure to eat healthy food and to drink lots of water prior to your appointment ... and don't forget your mask.
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