HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – While looking at feedback from previous blood shortage stories, it became clear many military families along with people who served on mission trips, may not be aware of somewhat recent changes to FDA blood donation guidelines.
“We live in a military community. When you cut out 50 percent of our eligible donors to donate, that’s huge,” said Kami May, the North Alabama Community Development Coordinator for Lifesouth.
May says if you lived on a U.S. Military base in Europe or France from 1980 to 1996 or Ireland from 1988 to 2001, you were automatically ineligible due to Mad Cow disease. That’s no longer the case. As of October 2020, the FDA removed the military stipulation when giving blood.
“A lot of science and research has went into that to make the conscious decision. We was excited to welcome those new donors,” said May.
The same can be said for church groups working in areas where malaria is present. The deferral period is now only 3 months instead of 12 months.
Between the pandemic and recent winter weather, 17 North Alabama medical facilities have seen a major decrease in their blood supply. Lifesouth says they could use some help getting the region back to a stable position.
“That resulted in a 400 unit deficit for the blood supply of North Alabama,” said May of the recent string of storms.
Blood donor centers in Florence were closed all of last week. Several locations across the valley missed a few days or had delayed openings. The only region drawing blood was Sand Mountain.
“Albertville has stayed open the entire time which has been amazing. They are kind of carrying our burdens right now,” said May.
People can give whole blood every 56 days and at Lifesouth they are taking every pandemic precaution they can.
“Not only is all the cleaning and spacing going on, more than half our staff has been vaccinated fully with the COVID-19 vaccine,” said May.
Giving blood once can save up to three lives.