The American Red Cross is now accepting individuals who spent time in certain European countries between 1980 and 2001 to give blood to help patients in need.
This move is in alignment with the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) revised guidance regarding the elimination of donor eligibility restrictions on European travel as it related to variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), believed to be derived from mad cow disease. Due to this change, many individuals who were deferred for travel to France, Ireland or the United Kingdom may now be able to roll up their sleeves to help save lives.
This eligibility change will potentially impact hundreds of thousands of individuals who were previously ineligible to give blood or platelets, including many in the military community who have served overseas.
One Donor’s Story:
Susan Malandrino, a military spouse who lived in Japan and the UK, has seen many people eager to donate be turned away due to the previous vCJD criteria. She is excited to be able to donate and that her fellow military community can join her.
Malandrino knows the value of blood donation first-hand. She has been a blood donor since she was a high school student and gave regularly for almost 15 years. However, after accompanying her husband who was deployed overseas, she learned that like many military service members and their families, she was likely not able to give blood due to vCJD.
Shortly after giving birth to premature twins, Malandrino and her two children faced a litany of complications and spent nearly 10 weeks in the hospital. After multiple treatments failed, doctors eventually recommended her son receive a blood transfusion.
“It was an amazing moment to see these complications stop and his heart and breathing work properly simply because of a blood transfusion. It felt like the generosity of others came back full circle,” she said.
When Malandrino heard the vCJD blood donation restrictions had been lifted, she signed up to donate immediately. “It’s been 10 years since my son received a blood transfusion and I still get emotional thinking of how thankful I am for this gift. I’m so excited that I can now pay it forward and help someone else in need.”
Blood Donor Eligibility and vCJD:
The Red Cross encourages individuals to give who have never tried to donate blood due to concerns over vCJD and believe they may now be eligible. To learn more about the FDA’s new guidelines visit RedCrossBlood.org.
Those previously deferred under former vCJD criteria will need to be reinstated before being able to donate. Reinstatement of previously deferred donors began October 3 and it’s estimated it will take several months to complete as it affects hundreds of thousands of donors. Individuals will be informed when their reinstatement is complete. Individuals may also contact the Red Cross Donor and Client Support Center at 1-866-236-3276 for information about donor eligibility.
The Red Cross has many layers of safety in place to help protect the blood supply and health of valued donors, including donor eligibility screening and rigorous testing performed on each donation. The Red Cross remains steadfast in its commitment to ensure that every blood recipient has access to safe, lifesaving blood products when needed.