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Health Canada

Blood donation waiting period for men who have sex with men reduced to one year


(OTTAWA) – Health Canada has approved Canadian Blood Services’ request to reduce the blood donation waiting period for men who have sex with men from five years to one year.

The change will take effect across the country on Aug. 15. Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec, Québec’s blood operator, will make the change at the same time.

“This is an exciting, incremental step forward in updating our blood donation criteria based on the latest scientific evidence,” says Dr. Graham Sher, chief executive officer, Canadian Blood Services. “Canadian Blood Services is dedicated to being as minimally restrictive as possible, while also maintaining the safety of the blood supply.”

Work is underway to update documentation and computer systems, and to train employees to ensure the changes are instituted correctly and safely across the country.

Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec both submitted applications to Health Canada to change the eligibility criteria near the end of March. This change was based on scientific evidence and supported by input from stakeholders.

Canadian Blood Services is exploring the possibility of moving toward behaviour-based screening. We are working with researchers, the LGBTQ community, patient groups and other stakeholders to determine how best to gather the scientific evidence required to determine future changes to the eligibility criteria.

Our first priority continues to be safety, as patients bear 100 per cent of the risk associated with changes to our eligibility criteria. To learn more, visit blood.ca.

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New blood donation rules protect Canadian blood supply from Zika virus


New 21-day waiting period to be fully implemented by this Friday for donating blood after travel

(OTTAWA, ON) – In response to the recent global outbreak of the Zika virus, Canadian Blood Services is confirming that anyone who has travelled outside of Canada, the continental United States and Europe will now be temporarily ineligible to give blood for three weeks. This new waiting period is currently being implemented across the country and will take full effect in all of our clinics starting on Friday, February 5.

While determining what the official deferral period should be, we had asked people to postpone blood donation for at least a month after returning from travel outside these specified zones. We are officially changing our eligibility criteria to include a 21-day waiting period, to mitigate the risk of the Zika virus entering the Canadian blood supply. This period ensures enough time has passed for the virus to be eliminated from a person’s bloodstream, and begins the day a person returns to Canada.

“This new temporary deferral period will safeguard Canada’s blood supply against the Zika virus, and will also help us protect against other similar mosquito-borne viruses,” says Dr. Dana Devine, chief medical and scientific officer, Canadian Blood Services.

The 21-day waiting period also applies to cord blood and stem cell donors who have travelled to affected areas. Héma-Québec (Quebec’s blood operator) will be implementing the same change.

The risk of a Canadian donor transmitting the Zika virus to a blood recipient is very low. The mosquito that carries the virus does not live in Canada due to our colder climate. There have been very few reported cases of Zika virus infection in travellers who acquired the virus abroad.

We anticipate this ineligibility period will reduce the number of donors available to donate in the coming months. We are therefore urging Canadians to donate before they travel to help make up for the anticipated shortfall. We also urge new and current donors who have not recently travelled outside of Canada, the continental United States and Europe, to please book an appointment. New donors are critical to maintaining a healthy blood supply and ensuring patients continue to receive the safe and effective blood and blood products they need.

For more information please visit www.blood.ca. You can also book an appointment online using our GiveBlood mobile app or through the website.

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All blood donations in the U.S. to be tested for Zika; Canadian Blood Services monitoring situation


(OTTAWA) - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced today its recommendation that all donated blood in the United States and its territories be tested for the Zika virus. Previously, the FDA had recommended that blood be tested for Zika in areas where there is active spread of the virus among mosquitoes. Now, all states are being asked to test their donated blood for the virus after considering evidence pertaining to its transmission in the U.S.

Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec, Quebec’s blood operator, are carefully monitoring the Zika virus in the United States and are taking this situation seriously. At this time, there are no changes to our current restrictions already in place to protect Canada’s blood supply against the Zika virus. We’ve determined the risk of the Zika virus entering the Canadian blood system to be extremely low but as we monitor the situation, we are prepared to update our screening criteria should it pose a risk to the Canadian blood supply.

We previously revised our eligibility criteria for donors to mitigate the risk of the virus entering the Canadian blood supply in early February. Anyone who has travelled outside of Canada, the continental United States and Europe is currently ineligible to give blood for three weeks (21 days) after their return. This new waiting period was implemented across the country on Feb. 5, 2016. The Zika virus infection does not last long in the blood, typically three to five days following the beginning of symptoms, and is cleared within 21 days. The 21-day waiting period ensures enough time has passed for the virus to be eliminated from a person’s bloodstream. We encourage people to think about donating blood before they travel, to minimize the impact of travel deferrals on the Canadian blood supply.

Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec meet regularly with Health Canada to discuss the evolving situation involving the Zika virus and will continue to do so.

In Canada currently, the risk of transmitting Zika virus through a blood transfusion from an infected donor who traveled to Florida is one in 45 million. As previously reported, the overall risk of a contaminated unit of blood getting into Canada’s blood supply due to a donor who had traveled outside this country is one in 8.3 million. This includes the risk from female donors who may not have traveled but who have had sex with an infected man.

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Changes to donor criteria planned due to Zika virus


As we continue to monitor the evolution of the Zika virus, we are revising our eligibility criteria for donors to mitigate the risk of the virus entering the Canadian blood supply. Canadian Blood Services will implement a new deferral period for blood, cord blood and stem cell donors who have recently travelled to locations outside of Canada, the United States and Europe.

We are working with Health Canada and Héma-Québec to determine the length of the deferral period. In the meantime, we are asking all potential donors who have recently travelled to places outside of those mentioned to postpone their appointment and rebook one month following their return to Canada.

We anticipate a reduction in the number of donors due to this ineligibility period and encourage Canadians to donate before they travel to help make up for the anticipated shortfall. We also urge new and returning donors who have not recently travelled outside of Canada, the United States and Europe, to please book an appointment. New donors are critical to maintaining a healthy blood supply and ensuring patients continue to receive the safe and effective blood and blood products they need.

The risk of Zika virus transmission from a Canadian donor to a blood recipient is very low. This deferral period is being introduced as a precaution, since to date, there has been no evidence of Zika virus transmission by transfusion causing illness in a recipient.

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