WASHINGTON, MAY 22, 2002 - America's Blood Centers, an international network of community blood centers that provide nearly half of the U.S. volunteer blood supply, could lose more than 300,000 donations of blood after the first round of an FDA-mandated deferral policy goes into effect on May 31.
The Food and Drug Administration's guidelines are being implemented to protect the blood supply against the theoretical risk of mad cow disease and focus mainly on European travel. These restrictions, combined with an increased usage of blood because of an aging population, may cause a shortfall of about one million donations of blood by the end of 2002.
"As we learned from September 11th, Columbine and the Oklahoma City bombing, it is the blood already on the shelves of hospitals and blood centers that saves lives. We are concerned that these deferrals may increase blood shortages, especially as we head into summer months when it's most difficult to collect enough blood to keep up with demand," says Jeanne Dariotis, President of America's Blood Centers.
"Although we have had several months to prepare ourselves and our donors, there is still a concern about the impact of these deferrals. Many loyal donors will no longer be able to give blood and that is really devastating. In order to assure that blood will be available when it's needed, regular donors need to give blood more often and new donors must replace those lost from the deferrals. We are hopeful people will respond to this challenge."

The following restrictions will become effective May 31 by the FDA. People who Meet one or more will not be eligible to donate blood:

  • If you lived in France for 5 years or more between 1980 and the present
  • If you have visited or lived in the United Kingdom for a total of 3 months or more between 1980 and 1996
  • If you received a blood transfusion in the UK between 1980 and the present
  • Military personnel (current and former), and their dependents, who spent time in military bases in northern Europe during 1980-1990, or southern Europe during 1980-1996, for 6 months or more
"More than anything, we are concerned about people who may mistakenly self defer. We ask people to carefully read the deferral criteria and contact their local blood center before making a decision on whether or not they can donate," says Dariotis.
The new deferral policy will also have great impact on the U.S. military, which could lose up to 25% of its donor base, totaling about 30,000 units.
In addition to the May 31 deferrals, the FDA has already declared that another round of deferrals will go into effect October 31, 2002, also affecting travel abroad and recent immigrants from Europe. FDA will extend the deferral to people who have visited or lived in Europe for a total of 5 years or more between 1980 and present.
These added restrictions will end the use of 140,000 units of red blood cells received from Europe, known as Euroblood, by New York Blood Center, which supplies blood to 200 community hospitals in New York City, Long Island, New York's Hudson Valley and northern and central New Jersey. New York is increasing it blood collections, as well as establishing agreements with ABC centers around the U.S. to help replace these units.
"Despite several years of looking, scientists and public health officials have found no evidence that mad cow disease is transmitted through blood transfusions," says Celso Bianco, MD, Executive Vice President of America's Blood Centers. "These deferrals are precautionary measures dealing with the theoretical risk to help insure the safety of the blood supply. We hope that ongoing research will provide definitive answers in the foreseeable future."
In the face of new deferrals, America's Blood Centers encourages eligible donors to donate blood several times a year to compensate for the losses and to fulfill the increasing demand for blood by the aging U.S. population, new cancer therapies and transplants and now, travel deferrals. Only about eight million Americans donate blood - that's less than three percent of the population.
Red blood cells have a 42-day shelf life and platelets only 5 days, so the supply must constantly be replaced. People can donate blood every 56 days, or every eight weeks - up to six times annually. Plasma can be given twice a week and platelets 24 times a year.
The largest providers of blood products and services, America's Blood Centers' members are located in 45 states and Canada, serving more than 125 million people at 450 blood donation sites. For 40 years, America's Blood Centers' members have been committed to serving the needs of their local communities by saving lives through volunteer blood donation.
For more information on America's Blood Centers, please call America's Blood Centers toll-free at 1-888-USBLOOD or visit our Web site at
Community Blood Services, 970 Linwood Avenue West, Paramus, NJ is a member of America's Blood Centers.
About Us
Blood Donations
Cord Blood
Clinical Services