Longtime blood donation deferral for military deployed to Europe ends July 1

South Texas Blood & Tissue Center implements new Food and Drug Administration guidelines for donations
July 1, 2020

Current and former members of the military and their families who were not allowed to give blood because of deployments in Europe will be able to donate again, the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center (STBTC) has announced.

The changes, part of a sweeping modification of FDA guidelines being implemented July 1.

Because of the pandemic, most blood drives canceled and maintaining the community blood supply continues to be challenging,” stated Elizabeth Waltman, chief operating officer for STBTC. “We believe many service members and their families will be very happy to be able donate again and help us maintain a robust blood supply for South Texas.”

Like all blood centers in the United States, STBTC is required to follow FDA guidelines regarding donor eligibility; therefore, STBTC, a subsidiary of San Antonio nonprofit BioBridge Global, has spent considerable time and effort in preparation for these much needed updates, even in the midst of launching the COVID convalescent plasma program.

Some of the changes will allow members of the military and their families who were stationed in Europe during the outbreak of Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), commonly referred to as “mad cow disease” to donate. In addition, the FDA reduced the deferral period for many other questions in the donor questionnaire, from 12 months to three months.

Donors are encouraged to go to www.southtexasblood.org to find out more about these changes. Previously deferred donors will need to contact STBTC before they can donate. Donors can call the Donor Eligibility line at 210-731-5555 extension 2243 or send an email donoreligibility@southtexasblood.org.

The Food and Drug Administration’s changes to blood donation guidelines were the result of recent studies and data showing the criteria can be modified without compromising the safety of the blood supply. The changes will increase the number of people able to give blood. The FDA is continuing to evaluate eligibility guidelines and there are details about the changes on the FDA website.

Active-duty or retired military, civilian military employees, and their dependents can resume donating blood if they were stationed in Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Greece, Turkey, Spain, Portugal or Italy. Previously, if any had spent six or more months in those countries during specific periods, they would have not been allowed to donate.

Donors still will be asked to defer their donation if they spent time adding up to five years in France and Ireland from 1980-2001.

Details about other changes are at SouthTexasBlood.org/donor-eligibility. To make an appointment visit SouthTexasBlood.org.