Blood donations are needed

The economy wasn’t the only thing affected by the COVID-19 shelter in place or distancing rules. With the cancellation of blood drives and usual donors not going in to donate, blood banks throughout the country saw an alarming decrease in supplies.

Regardless of the American Red Cross’ assurances that social distancing measures were being taken at blood banks and that an individual would not get sick by donating, the low levels of blood supply were enough of a warning to have the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration step in.

The CDC put out a statement in mid-March urging people to donate blood. In the meantime, the FDA relaxed restrictions for formerly excluded groups.

Who can donate now?

  • Donors who lived in Europe associated with a military base who were deferred due to Mad Cow disease may now donate. This does not include people who were based in England – they are still excluded.
  • Donors who were deferred due to travel to certain countries are now deferred for only three months.
  • Donors who were excluded due to needle sticks, tattoos or piercings are now deferred for only three months.
  • Donors that have a greater potential of transmitting HIV such as men who have recently had sex with another man; or women who have had sex with a man who had sex with another man have decreased their deferral from 12 months to three months.

In addition, the FDA wants you to know:

  • You won’t be tested for COVID-19 when you donate
  • Asymptomatic individuals will not spread the disease through a blood donation. COVID-19 is a respiratory illness, not a blood illness.

All of this was welcoming news for Denise Bradley, director of strategic engagement & projects at University Health System. Like thousands of Americans who served in the U.S. military, Bradley was stationed in Europe when Mad Cow disease was a serious issue.

“I immediately called University Health System’s Blood Donor Services and was thrilled to be sitting in the donation chair a few hours later,” said Bradley, “Donating blood is an easy, painless way of helping, and I will be doing this as often as they let me.”

For San Antonio, often called Military City because of the number of military bases that were located here, the relaxing of the rules can draw in more donors.

“We have many retired or current military personnel that were stationed in Europe that are now eligible,” said Debra Serna, senior laboratory manager for University Health System. “We have seen approximately 5 to 10 additional donors per day since the change and will hopefully see more as the word gets out!”

Can these blood donations from formerly excluded groups be safe? The answer is yes, according to Dr. John Daniels, medical director of donor services at University Health System.

As states throughout the nation also start lifting restrictions and reopen businesses, University Health System began the phasing in of elective surgeries. Open businesses will also mean more people on the roads and potentially traumatic injuries. According to the FDA, every two seconds, a patient needs a blood transfusion. If there’s a place that needs your service more than ever, it’s your local blood bank.

If you have questions, you can call Blood Donor Services at 210-358-2812. If you are ready to donate, you can schedule a time at DonateBloodToday.com.

Also, check out this video about myths about donating blood.