FDA working to increase blood donor eligibility amid nationwide blood crisis

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) – Local blood banks now only have half a day’s supply of blood on the shelves when they normally have at least five.

“This is the first time in history that we have had to issue a blood crisis,” said Red Cross spokeswoman Annette Rowland. “It’s scary.”

Alabama’s blood supply is extremely low, and Rowland said they’re seeing a lot of no-shows and canceled donor appointments.

“With a half-day supply, hospitals have to make tough choices because that inventory just isn’t there,” she said.

Rowland said they need more than 300 donations a day statewide to replenish the supply where it was, but there are a lot of criteria for donating and few people are eligible.

“If you’re a very short person and don’t meet the weight requirements, you may be deferred,” Rowland said. “A certain medicine you take, you can be deferred.”

But even though the pool of eligible donors is already small and supply is lower than ever, Rowland said they can’t just change the rules to attract more donors. It all depends on the FDA.

“We can work with them,” Rowland said. “We can suggest changes to be made, but we cannot simply implement our own changes. We cannot accept anything without FDA approval.

But, she said, changes to the rules could be coming soon.

“They’re looking at all the groups of people that they’ve deemed ineligible and they’re doing studies,” Rowland said. “I hope it opens soon.”

Although some of the eligibility rules can make it more difficult for the donor, Rowland said it’s more important for the person receiving it.

“You want to be sure that the blood going into your body is good,” she said. “You don’t want to come in with one problem and come back with another.”

Click here for the donor eligibility list. Click here to register to donate.

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