Due to changing blood donor criteria, donor deferral rates have been increasing since 1999 with trend lines predicting additional deferral increases. This predicament has created a critical demand for new people to step forward to donate to ensure there is an adequate supply of blood for hospital patients in New York and New Jersey who require life-saving transfusions, reports New York Blood Center (NYBC) officials.
Donor eligibility and criteria are established by the Food & Drug Administration to protect the safety of the American blood supply, explained Dr. Robert Jones, President and Chief Executive Officer of New York Blood Center. “But as more and more deferrals are put into place, some of which are based on purely theoretical risk of disease transmission, the result is fewer current donors remain eligible to donate,” pointed out Dr. Jones.
“We estimate we have lost approximately 5% of our donors since November 2002 due to criteria related to travel or residence in Europe for fear of transmitting mad cow disease despite any medical or scientific evidence this is possible. Other potential donors are turned away now if they were possibly exposed to West Nile Virus, the SARS virus, or if they have less than one-year-old tattoos, traveled to malarial regions of the world or served time in the military in Iraq. The bottom line is that with each new deferral, the nation’s blood supply is put at risk and no more so than in the populous NY/NJ community where some of the nation’s finest medical care facilities are located,” said Dr. Jones.
“Our community demands over 2,000 life-saving donations of blood daily to meet the transfusion needs of patients in close to 200 NY/NJ hospitals,” remarked Dr. Jones. “Yet currently less than 2% of eligible people in our community donate blood versus the nationwide average of 5% of eligible residents in a community donating. We simply need more people locally rolling up their sleeve if we hope to avoid a devastating shortage of blood this month as we approach the Thanksgiving holiday,” continued Dr. Jones.
A less than adequate blood supply could translate into reduced shipments of blood to area hospitals, cancelled elective surgeries, emergency room closures or worse. So NYBC is urging people to donate if eligible to guarantee no one goes without a life-saving transfusion this November. Potential donors are asked to call New York Blood Center at 1-800-933-BLOOD to schedule an appointment at one of many convenient donation locations in New York City, Long Island, New Jersey or the Hudson Valley. Donors can also schedule appointments online by going to www.nybloodcenter.org.