Blood supply challenges prompt action on donor eligibility

July 19, 2022
The FDA updated blood donor eligibility.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently announced the removal of outdated recommendations that for many years have required blood centers to indefinitely defer blood donors for geographic risk of possible exposure to bovine spongiform encephalopathy, the main cause of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD).

This recommendation is just the latest evidence-based adjustment among many released by the FDA since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic that are designed to remove outdated donation requirements, expanding blood donor eligibility. The crucial timing of FDA’s actions carries increased significance because historically only a small percentage of those who are eligible in the United States actually donate, and in the years since the start of the pandemic, the pressure to expand the donor pool to meet patients’ needs for blood has only increased.

Many of the headlines related to blood donation in the past three years have repeated similar messages: “blood emergency,” “desperate need for donors,” and “national blood shortage.” Even as recently as January, the American Red Cross declared its first-ever “blood crisis.”

The timing of FDA’s updated requirements removing unnecessary barriers to blood donation is crucial because it is becoming clear that the pandemic may no longer be the only factor affecting this blood shortage. The American Red Cross has also noted extreme weather conditions and staffing limitations.

AABB release