The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued updated recommendations related to blood donation to address the immediate need for blood and blood components as a result of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Since the implementation of social distancing due to COVID-19, blood donation centers have reported experiencing a dramatic decrease in the number of donations. It is estimated that someone in the US requires blood every 2 seconds, making it imperative to maintain an adequate supply.  In response to this, the FDA has modified a number of existing policies regarding donor eligibility criteria in order to promote blood donation. 

According to the Agency, these policies were updated based on epidemiologic data as well as results from recently completed studies. Additionally, it was noted that these modifications are to be implemented immediately and will still apply after the COVID-19 pandemic ends; changes may be made based on feedback following guidance implementation.

Modifications have been made to various guidances, including  sections discussing recommendations for reducing the risk of transmission of HIV, malaria, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). One major changes involves the reduction in the deferral period (from 12 months to 3 months) for the following potential blood donor populations: a male donor having sex with another man, a female donor that had sex with a man who had sex with another man, individuals with recent tattoos or piercings, and those who are residents of a malaria nonendemic country that traveled to a malaria-endemic area. 

Another modification involves the elimination of recommended deferrals for donors who may have been exposed to CJD or variant CJD while in certain European countries.   

“We believe these updated recommendations will have a significant and positive impact on our blood supply,” said CBER Director Peter Marks MD, PhD in a press statement. “The updated recommendations in these guidances are based on data and analysis that the FDA believes are applicable to circumstances outside of (and after) the COVID-19 pandemic and reflect the agency’s current thinking on this issue.”

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