Bermuda Hospitals Board is today announcing revised blood donor eligibility criteria used in the Bermuda Blood Donor Centre. Eligibility criteria are part of the standards used to ensure the safest possible voluntary blood supply for people in Bermuda who need transfusions. Other standards include having a voluntary (not paid) blood supply, having regular donors and high quality testing of all donated blood.
The main changes relate to eligibility criteria that protect the blood supply from certain viruses that can be transmitted through blood including malaria, HIV and variant Creutzfeld-Jacob Disease (vCJD), the disease caused by exposure to meat infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease).
Dr Eyitayo Fakunle, Consultant Haematologist who oversees the Blood Donor Centre, comments: “The revised criteria reflect improved testing and research, which means we can safely reduce the wait time after certain activities, such as having tattoos or microblading, from 12 months to 3 months. Residents who previously couldn’t donate because they spent time in the Azores or Portugal between 1980 and 1996 can now donate which is great news.
“We do not want to discriminate against any individual, and we know it can upset people when our eligibility criteria mean they cannot donate blood. These standards, however, help us manage serious risks and we always err on the side of safety. As we are a small country we do not have national policy-setting bodies on blood donation, so we follow the US and Canada as the two accrediting bodies who asses our safety standards are from those countries. Our expectation is that criteria will continue to evolve and reduce barriers for people who want to donate, while ensuring our blood supplies remain safe.”
Blood donations are used for people who need transfusions to treat conditions such as sickle cell anaemia and cancer, or as life-saving responses to blood loss, such as complications during birth, surgery or trauma.
What is changing?
Reduced deferrals for certain activities
The following activities used to require a 12 month deferral, and now only have a three month deferral. This is based on improved testing accuracy.
- Travellers to malaria countries
- Men who have sex with other men (MSM)
- Women who have sex with MSM
- Individuals exposed to allergenic tissue through transplant or transfusions
- Contact with an open wound, non-intact skin, blood from another person
- A needle stick or sharp injury from an instrument used on another person
- Individuals treated for syphilis or gonorrhea
- Individuals who receive money, drugs or other payment for sex
vCJD country risks have been re-assessed
An assessment of risks for variant Creutzfeld Jacob Disease (vCJD) in different countries has led to a change in criteria. People who have spent time in most European countries, including Portugal and the Azores, can now donate with the following exclusions:
- The criteria for the UK has not changed, which means people who spent three months or more (cumulative) in the UK (i.e. England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales), the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands, Gibraltar, or the Falkland Islands between 1 January 1980 and 31 December 1996 cannot donate.
- The criteria for Ireland and France have changed, and people who spent five years or more (cumulative) in those countries between 1 January 1980 and 31 December 2001 cannot donate.
- Anyone who has had a blood transfusion in the UK, Ireland or France from 1 January 1980 to present day still cannot donate.
Click here for the updated Blood Donor Eligibility Criteria Factsheet.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Why are restrictions for vCJD in the UK, Ireland and France still in place?
As this disease has a potential latent period of many decades and there is no way to either test for vCJD or filter blood to capture the prions that cause it, this is the only way we can make sure we keep this disease out of the blood supply for people in Bermuda. The risk in many European countries has been re-assessed, however, including the Azores and Portugal, and no deferral is needed for people who spent time in these countries. Click here for a factsheet about vCJD and blood donation.
Why can’t people who are incarcerated donate?
This standard remains in the US. We understand the frustration when criteria require a deferral, and certainly once the deferral period passes we welcome all people who can donate.
Why do men who have sex with men have to wait three months to donate?
The deferral has reduced from 12 months to 3 months, but we understand the hurt that this criteria causes. We are closely following developments in other countries. The UK first moved to a three month deferral, and saw no increased safety risks. Only just this month (June 2021) the UK removed the deferral and is the first country to do so. At this time the US criteria is three months and we are moving first in line with this standard, with the hope this will change in the future. Click here for a factsheet regarding this deferral critiera.
Who are the accrediting bodies of the Blood Donor Centre? What do they do?
Accrediting bodies assess the Bermuda Blood Donor Centre through a process in surveyors review whether patient safety standards are being adhered to. The Bermuda Blood Donor Centre goes through a specialised lab accreditation with Joint Commission International (US-based) and is included in the hospital-wide accreditation process with Accreditation Canada. The Blood Donor Centre has to pass both accreditation standards.
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