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We Are Blood prepares to implement FDA change in blood donor eligibility

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the FDA has changed longtime rules that didn’t allow gay men and other specific groups of people to donate blood.

AUSTIN, Texas — Central Texas blood bank We Are Blood is preparing to implement new guidance from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that makes more people eligible to donate blood.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented challenges to the U.S. blood supply. Donor centers have experienced a dramatic reduction in donations due to the implementation of social distancing and the cancellation of blood drives,” the FDA wrote in the new guidance.

The FDA said recently completed studies indicate the old policies could be changed without compromising the safety of the blood supply.

Instead of a year deferral period, these people can now donate after waiting three months:

  • Gay men who have had sex with other men
  • People who have gotten a tattoo or piercing from a non-Texas-licensed facility
  • People who traveled to malaria-risk areas

For the first time, people who lived on U.S. military bases in Europe between the 1980s and early 2000s can now donate.

“We expect that the updated guidance and alternative procedures will help increase the number of donations moving forward, while helping to ensure adequate protections for donor health and maintaining a safe blood supply for patients,” the FDA wrote.

Now, local blood donation center We Are Blood is preparing to implement the change, but it’ll take at least six weeks to update the software.

RELATED: We Are Blood asking for donations to prepare for potential coronavirus outbreak in Central Texas

“We think it's fantastic. Obviously all blood centers, but especially ours in Central Texas represents a diverse community here, and we want to be able to welcome as much of that of that community to donate blood and help strengthen the blood supply, which is incredibly important at all times of year, but especially now as our community is dealing with the coronavirus pandemic,” said Nick Canedo, the We Are Blood VP of community engagement.

According to additional guidance posted by We Are Blood, currently deferred donors will have to submit a request for the eligibility changes before trying to donate when the new guidance is implemented.

“We cover a service area in Central Texas that has a population of 2.2 million people and we see around 30,000 donors a year. So, anything we can do to expand a community of donors that we have is a good thing for our community,” Canedo said.

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