FDA guideline change could help with blood supply

Change expands pool of eligible donors
A change to the FDA guidelines on blood donations increases the pool of eligible donors.
Published: Jul. 19, 2022 at 6:07 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - Donating blood has never seemed like a daunting task to Allie Van Dyke; she saw it as a way to be a dutiful citizen. However, when she first tried to donate as a college student, she learned she was not eligible to give blood.

“I burst into tears and didn’t stop crying for about an hour,” Van Dyke told FOX Carolina. “Now I can donate blood and I’m really excited.”

For more than 20 years, the Federal Drug Administration has deferred blood donations from people who have lived or traveled extensively in parts of Europe as a precaution against the theoretical threat of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known as mad cow disease. The deferral applied to people who had spent three months in England, Northern Island, Scotland Wales, the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands, Gibraltar or the Falkland Islands between 1980 and 1996. People who spent a total of five years in France or Ireland from 1980 to 2001 were also prohibited from donating blood. Additionally, anyone who received a blood transfusion from any of these areas from 1980 to the present were not permitted to donate blood.

After years of analysis and no documentation of transmissions through blood transfusions, the FDA has lifted the deferral.

“I didn’t think that in my lifetime this deferral would be lifted,” said Van Dyke, who lived in England from age 3 to 7 during the 1990′s.

The Blood Connection, which supplies more than 100 hospitals in the Carolinas and Georgia, has been advocating for modification of the deferral. The change comes at a critical time.

“We need to collect roughly 800 to 1,000 units a day to make sure that we have what our hospitals need,” Katie Smithson, media coordinator for The Blood Connection, told FOX Carolina. “We’re struggling to get to that number.”

Smithson said the demand for blood transfusions has increased as fewer people are donating. She said The Blood Connection welcomes the change.

“We are thrilled to hear about it because it opens up our donor pool to thousands and thousands of people,” Smithson said.

Van Dyke, who also works for The Blood Connection, said she looks forward to helping meet the demand.

“Every two months I want to be right there donating blood,” Van Dyke said. “I know that a lot of people are going to feel like me.”