The new policy will expand the donor pool, with potential to alleviate chronic blood shortages across the country that were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, says Dr. Vossoughi, who is also assistant professor of pathology and cell biology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.
As blood screening technology has improved over the years with support from scientific data, guidelines have shifted, she adds.
Donated blood is tested for a number of diseases including HIV, hepatitis B, and West Nile Virus.
“The testing has become very precise,” she says. “You’re more likely to get struck by lightning than to catch HIV from a transfusion, so the individual donor assessment coupled with the blood testing has made transfusion extraordinarily safe.”
The FDA recommendation comes as a result of data from the Assessing Donor Variability And New Concepts in Eligibility (ADVANCE) Study, which sought to determine if a donor history questionnaire based on individual risk would be just as effective as the three-month deferral period in reducing HIV risk in donated blood.
The new assessment approach will continue to maintain the safety of the blood supply, according to the FDA. It’s in line with similar policies in place in Canada and the United Kingdom.
While the updated guidelines may make way for more people being able to donate, there’s still work to be done to make blood donation more inclusive, says Dr. Vossoughi.
“We’ve done a lot, but we haven’t done enough,” she says. “This is very exciting and in the blood banking community, we want to keep going and pushing forward. The transfusion medicine community is actively engaged in this area of recruiting and retaining a diverse blood donor pool.”