To address the urgent need for blood during the coronavirus pandemic, the United States has updated the guidelines to relax restrictions on gay donors. US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued guidance for immediate implementation to address the challenge of blood supply.
The agency has changed the recommended deferral period to 3 months for male donors who had sex with another man. Since 2015, the deferral period was of 12 months and before that, there was a complete ban on gay male donors. A similar recommendation has been made by the agency for female donors who would have been deferred for having sex with a man who had sex with another man.
Peter Marks, Director of Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER), said in a statement that blood donor centres have witnessed a dramatic reduction in donations due to stay-at-home guidelines and social distancing. He emphasised on the vitality of maintaining adequate blood supply for public health.
“People who donate blood are part of our critical infrastructure industries. More donations are needed at this time and we hope people will continue to take the time to donate blood,” said the official.
FDA has recommended change in the deferral period of people with tattoos and piercings and those who have travelled to malaria-endemic areas. The agency went on to eliminate the deferral period for donors who spent time in certain European countries or on military bases in Europe considered to have been exposed to a potential risk of transmission of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease or Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.
The federal agency believes that the updated recommendations will have a significant and positive impact on disrupted blood supply. It added that the updated guidance is expected to remain in place even after the end of coronavirus pandemic.
“The FDA will monitor these changes in policy, alongside the National Institutes of Health’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and major blood partners to ensure the continued safety of the blood supply,” said the agency.
(Image Credit: AP)