LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (News Release) ─ Arkansas Blood Institute announced it will provide free COVID-19 antibody tests for all blood donors 18 and older. Arkansas Blood Institute is the first blood center in the state to offer COVID-19 antibody screening service to its donors.
This testing initiative, provided at all donor centers and mobile blood drives, comes in the wake of an immediate need for blood donations due to an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations. Healthy donors are urged to give blood, and appointments are encouraged to allow for recommended social distancing.
The antibody testing was announced at a Wednesday morning media conference held at the Arkansas Blood Institute’s donor center in Little Rock. Speakers included John Armitage, M.D., president & chief executive officer of Arkansas Blood Institute; Nate Smith, M.D., Arkansas secretary of health, and Tina Ipe, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor and division director for the UAMS Blood Bank and Transfusion Division.
“While antibody testing can’t tell you if you currently have COVID-19, it can tell you if you’ve ever had it—something many people are curious about,” said Dr. Smith. “This is just one more reason to take the time to give blood. It’s always important to give blood, but it’s even more critical now as we experience a national decrease in donations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Giving blood is safe, it’s easy, it’s quick, and it can help save a life.”
Arkansas Blood Institute’s medical laboratory technicians will test each blood sample individually. A tube will be drawn at the time of donation, and antibody test results will be mailed post-donation. Donors may opt out of the antibody test.* Testing and donor b-roll can be found on Dropbox.
“Our generous donors are answering the call to donate – coming out in force when the need for blood is great and ensuring that no patient goes without crucial transfusion care,” said Dr. Armitage. “The antibody tests are a natural step in our commitment to the health of our lifesaving donors, and we are also very eager to help our state reopen medically and economically.”
Arkansas Blood Institute’s donor centers and mobile blood drives have instituted additional cleaning methods, including decontaminating work and common areas and equipment frequently. In addition, donor centers and mobile blood drives have been adapted to allow for social distancing. All phlebotomy staff will wear masks. Staff members and donors will also have their temperatures taken before starting work or entering the facility.
Arkansas Blood Institute is following recommendations and guidelines set forth by the FDA, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and AABB (formerly American Association of Blood Banks). Arkansas Blood Institute is committed to maintaining the safest standards for blood collection, testing and transfusion.
Arkansas Blood Institute supports the inventory for patients in more than 40 hospitals, medical facilities and air ambulances statewide. Appointments can be made by calling 1-877-340-8777 or visiting arkbi.org. More information on Arkansas Blood Institute can be found at arkbi.org.
*16-year-olds must weigh at least 125 pounds and provide signed parental permission; 17-year-olds must weigh at least 125 pounds; 18+ year olds must weigh at least 110 pounds. Must be 18 or older to receive antibody test. This test has not been reviewed by the FDA and is not intended for diagnosis or treatment of COVID-19.