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    Welcome Back, Blood Donors: FDA Deferral Lifted Fully for vCJD Restriction

    Welcome Back, Blood Donors: FDA Deferral Lifted Fully for vCJD Restriction

    Photo By Jonathan Davis | Welcome back, blood donors! The FDA has recently updated its guidelines, and ASBP...... read more read more



    Story by Jonathan Davis 

    Defense Health Agency

    The FDA has recently updated its guidelines, and ASBP blood donors who were once deferred for geographic risk factors related to Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD), commonly referred to as “Mad Cow” disease, or for receiving a blood transfusion in the U.K., France or Ireland during certain periods of time, may now be eligible to donate, provided they meet all other eligibility requirements. It’s another big “Welcome Back!” moment for the blood donation community.

    Starting in the summer of 2020, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) removed certain blood donor requirements on several major travel and medical deferrals, such as shortening temporary deferral periods from 12 months to 3 months for malaria-risk area travel and tattoos or piercings obtained from non-regulated locations.

    One of the most impactful 2020 deferral changes for the Armed Services Blood Program (ASBP) was the deferral for vCJD, a common deferral among active duty and non-active duty alike as many were stationed in countries it covered. Many countries in Europe were removed from the deferral list for this risk, and those it had impacted were welcomed back to donating again. However, there were still deferrals held in place for the U.K., France and Ireland, specifically, if one traveled to one of these countries during certain periods of time, cumulatively.

    “Blood safety is always our top priority,” stated Navy Captain Leslie Riggs, ASBP Division Chief. “With the newly released FDA guidelines regarding vCJD deferral, we are excited to welcome back donors who were previously deferred and now have the opportunity to save lives for our warfighters and families in need. It is a welcomed change.”

    These guidelines have been updated and reassessed multiple times over the years. The FDA's decision in 2020 to remove certain geographic-based deferrals was based on a risk-ranking model that estimated the country-specific, relative risk of possible exposure to vCJD.

    New guidelines were issued by the FDA in May 2022, and the Association for the Advancement of Blood and Biotherapies (AABB) has also published a document for the implementation of these new guidelines. After several weeks of implementation across all ASBP donor centers, transfusion centers and other locations, the military’s blood program welcomes back those who were once indefinitely deferred.

    Karen Royster, Quality Assurance Manager, ASBP Division, explained that “...the FDA has had very strict regulation for vCJD to ensure the safety of the blood supply since 2001..with over twenty years of research, they have now removed the geographic travel deferral and blood transfusion risk deferral for blood donation.”

    Royster also mentioned the positive effects of this change, stating that “the removal of these deferrals will provide an opportunity for more of the population to donate and ensuring the risk for vCJD has been eliminated for travel and blood transfusions.”

    While donor requirements have been updated, blood product safety is always ASBP’s number one priority. These changes have only been made after extensive research and analysis. Blood products are regulated by the FDA, and clear standards are set for each unit of blood to ensure the safety of the recipient.

    The ASBP knows their supporters understand the mission each time they come out and donate. Their donation makes an immediate impact for a service member, a family member, retiree, or veteran in need worldwide. Many who had donated prior to the initial implementation of the deferral over 20 years ago continued to support the ASBP’s mission and encourage others to donate when they could not.

    Donors like Dan Ashline, a regular ASBP donor in 1980s and ‘90s, who was then deferred, is now a regular and loyal ASBP donor once more. When the Armed Services Blood Bank Bank-San Antonio (ASBBC-SA) informed him of the changes to the 2020 deferral updates, he was "very pleased to learn that [he] was again eligible to donate. [He] scheduled an appointment to donate within a couple of weeks."

    A location where the vCJD deferral was creating difficulties was at the Armed Services Blood Bank Center-Europe (ASBBC-E), in Landstuhl, Germany. Although steady and successful blood drives helped make mission year after year, many people were deferred due to being stationed in the U.K. for 3 months or more or cumulatively in France or Ireland for 5 years or more. The program and the ASBBC-E staff and donors are excited to welcome back a previously deferred group, as they were in 2020.

    Highlighting how this greatly impacts the program as a whole, Riggs shared that “Blood donors are necessary for the ASBP to complete its mission. They are the ‘heart’ of this program. This now lifted restriction results in us having a greater donor pool, with the potential for increased donations and therefore supply. Ultimately, helping us stand ready and equipped in support of military healthcare operations worldwide.”

    He especially emphasized how “..our (ASBP) donors are some of the most committed and loyal because they truly understand the mission and lifesaving impact donations have in our community. We are excited to provide an opportunity again, or for the first time, to supporters who want to join us in saving lives. Welcome back!”

    If you have any questions regarding your eligibility to donate, please contact your local ASBP blood donor center. To find a blood drive near you, please visit

    About the Armed Services Blood Program

    Since 1962, the Armed Services Blood Program (ASBP) has served as the official blood program of the United States military. Our mission is to provide quality blood products and support to military health care operations worldwide. The ASBP collects, processes, stores, transports, and distributes blood products to service members, their families, retirees, and veterans in peace and war. In an ASBP Enterprise view – Military Health Affairs, Defense Health Agency, Service Blood Programs and Combatant Commands – we operate under common goals, metrics, procedures and work together to shape the future.

    The ASBP is one of four organizations tasked with supplying the Nation with safe blood products. Our program works closely with our civilian counterparts in times of emergency to maximize the availability of this blood.

    To find out more about the ASBP or schedule an appointment to donate, please visit To interact directly with ASBP staff members or get the latest news, follow us @militaryblood on Facebook, Twitter and @usmilitaryblood on Instagram.



    Date Taken: 07.28.2022
    Date Posted: 08.16.2022 08:41
    Story ID: 425979
    Location: US

    Web Views: 646
    Downloads: 1