FDA loosens blood donation restrictions

New changes made by the FDA could lead to more people donating blood.
Published: Feb. 15, 2023 at 7:41 PM CST
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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - New changes made by the FDA could lead to more people donating blood.

The agency has worked closely with a variety of other agencies to allow people who spent time in Europe from 1980 to 2001 to donate blood. Deferrals for bisexual or gay men have also been reduced to three months without any sexual activity, but the wait may only be temporary.

”They’re also now talking about possibly eliminating you know the deferral all together,” said Rachelle Lipker, Executive Director of American Red Cross, Central and Western Nebraska. “However, we want to make sure that the blood products that we have are safe and we’re able to use all of them.”

Lipker said the Red Cross tests all the blood they receive because it goes to hospitals all across the country. She also feels eliminating deferrals on people who spent time in Europe will bring in a new wave of donors.

“I think that will help a lot,” said Lipker. “Especially those who were on the lifetime deferral for the Mad Cow disease. I think that will help a lot because people were wanting to donate, and they were on the lifetime band. So now we’re really excited to be able to offer some donation opportunities for those who are not able to donate before.”

She said almost anyone can donate blood now because the Red Cross uses a self-identification method.

“The Red Cross, we go by self-identifying,” said Lipker. “So, if you come in and you identify as a woman, we’re going to ask the female questions. If you identify as a man, we’re going to ask the male questions and go through the process. You know it’s standardized questions for everyone.”

But even with restrictions loosening, some people still aren’t showing up to donate.

“Typically, winter is one of our more difficult times, just due to winter weather,” said Jeremy Aupperlee. “For example, right here in central Nebraska we’ve had several drives canceled, hundreds of units canceled over the last months. Even this week we expect winter weather to have an effect tomorrow with our drives. So right now, we’re really needing donors out there.”

Aupperlee said it’s important to give blood because it’s a great act of kindness, and can go a long way.

“You never know when you or a loved one will give blood. It’s a great act, one hour can save up to three people’s lives,” said Aupperlee. “It’s a very simple process, you come in, we do a quick little questionnaire to make sure that you’re eligible able to donate, and then it’s about a 10-12 minute procedure.”

He said the Red Cross has not seen an increase in donors, but with the new FDA recommendations, they hope to bring in new donors.