OKLAHOMA CITY – As winter weather and resulting blood drive cancelations severely impact the supply of life-saving blood, Oklahoma Blood Institute is alerting potential donors that new eligibility rules allow more people to give the gift of life. Many veterans, health care workers, and other civic-minded individuals who were disqualified in the past are now cleared to donate again.

Due to the nationwide blood shortage in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently revised a number of eligibility requirements for volunteer blood donors.

Those who spent extended time in many European countries are now no longer deferred due to Mad Cow Disease risks. This change will likely allow many veterans and military personnel to donate blood.

Individuals in the following groups will remain deferred because of European residency: Those who spent three months or more in the United Kingdom from 1980-1996; and those who spent five years or more in France or Ireland from 1980-2001.

The following now only have a three-month deferral period – these were previously 12- month deferrals: Tattoos, ear piercings, and body piercings from unlicensed or unlisted facilities; blood transfusions; accidental needle stick or splash for health care workers; and travel to malarial-endemic areas.

"We're excited to see the FDA use the latest scientific data to adjust deferral criteria, allowing us to welcome back many donors," said John Armitage, president and CEO of Oklahoma Blood Institute. "Many donors who have previously been unable to give are now able to support the community blood supply that patients so desperately count on to recover from trauma, fight cancer, undergo surgery or battle life-threatening diseases."

Additionally, many donors are unsure if they can donate with some common health conditions. Diabetes, high blood pressure or thyroid disease are often not obstacles to giving blood. Donors who have received the COVID-19 vaccine (Moderna or Pfizer) face no waiting time before giving blood or platelets.

Oklahoma Blood Institute has set up a hotline for donors who are unsure of their eligibility. Donors are asked to call 405-419-1538 with questions about their eligibility. Answers to frequently asked questions are listed at obi.org/blood-donation/can-i-donate.

Oklahoma Blood Institute is urging healthy adults age 16 or older of all blood types to give as soon as possible if they can safely visit a convenient donor center or mobile blood drive. Appointments to donate blood can be made at obi.org or by calling 877-340-8777. Walk-ins are welcome.

"Blood Emergency Heroes" who give blood will be entered into a daily drawing for a $2,000 prize. One winner will be drawn each day. In addition, all blood donors who give during this emergency will be entered for a chance to win a 2021 Subaru Outback Premium AWD from Bob Moore Auto Group. The car winner will be announced at a later date.

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