With recent changes in eligibility rules, donating blood at Cascade Regional Blood Services (CRBS) is now easier than ever. When the need remains critically high, donors that have been deferred in the past may now be eligible to donate.

According to Cascade Regional Blood Services, someone needs blood every two seconds in the United States, and 40 percent of that is graciously contributed by volunteers. Blood is used in several vital procedures, including surgeries, cancer treatments, and when caring for terminal illnesses and life-threatening injuries.

Cascade Regional Blood Services
Tacoma Donor Center for Cascade Regional Blood Services serves MultiCare System hospitals and medical facilities throughout the area. Photo courtesy: Cascade Regional Blood Services

Cascade Regional Blood Services is the sole provider of life-saving blood and blood components to MultiCare System hospitals and medical facilities throughout the Pacific Northwest region. Since 1946, they’ve helped to get the vital donations to areas including Pierce, South King, and Grays Harbor Counties.

Many communities struggle to maintain a healthy blood supply, and now that need has increased due to the pandemic. Blood donors and services have faced a variety of new challenges with social distancing rules in place and activities such as blood drives being canceled, and former lengthier wait periods and restrictions by the FDA for specific donors.   

Fortunately, updated recommendations to donor qualifications were made by the FDA earlier this year to meet the growing demands for the contribution of blood and blood components as a direct result of COVID-19.

This change in eligibility is terrific news for Cascade Regional Blood Services and other blood donation centers that welcome the new directives.

Cascade Regional Blood Services
There are now shorter blood donor deferral windows for those receiving tattoos or piercings. Photo courtesy: Cascade Regional Blood Services

“The recent FDA guidance changes will make more donors eligible, which helps CRBS maintain an adequate blood supply for our community,” said Tara Crosby, Director of Quality Assurance at CRBS. “Maintaining an adequate blood supply is essential at any time but especially during a pandemic when we do not need another public health threat such as a blood supply shortage.”

Through recent assessments and the study of historical data, the FDA revised specific donor guidelines without putting blood supplies at risk to increase the number of potential donors. 

“The blood industry has been waiting for a review and revision of previous policies. As testing and technology advances, we need to be nimble and update policies based on data and science,” said Crosby. 

Some of the new guidance for donor criteria includes shorter deferral times for those at risk of transmitting HIV. For example, an individual that received a tattoo or piercing would now have a three-month deferral window rather than waiting 12 months before they could become a blood donor.

Cascade Regional Blood Services
Military members can now donate more easily with the removal of some deferrals which apply to service members based in Europe. Photo courtesy: Cascade Regional Blood Services

Adjustments have been made for individuals who have traveled to an area of malaria exposure. They would typically have a 12-month deferral time, which is now also reduced to three months.

Additional updates include removing any deferral for those at risk of transmission of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which usually applies to service members having been based in Europe.  

The FDA changes took place immediately and will likely be permanent once the pandemic has concluded. However, they continue to closely monitor the effects these revisions may have, considering additional necessary adjustments in the future. 

Cascade Regional Blood Services
Cascade Regional Blood Services Puyallup Donor Center, a leader in supplying life-saving blood and blood components. Photo courtesy: Cascade Regional Blood Services

At CRBS, the safety of both the community and staff is of the utmost importance. “During a pandemic, people may be nervous about getting out there in the community. We strive to keep our centers and mobile drives as safe as possible,” said Crosby. The local health department and CDC guidelines are closely followed. These precautions include observing social distancing rules, strict disinfecting procedures, and added personal protective equipment such as masks and plexiglass shields.

Cascade Regional Blood Services has worked tirelessly to update systems and complete reentry processes for previous donors, in addition to connecting with those that may not have been eligible in the past. “There are still potential donors out there who don’t know they are eligible to donate. Eligibility rules change over time, so if you haven’t donated in five, ten, or even 15 years, please reach out to us,” said Crosby.

By becoming a blood donor at CRBS, together, we can help communities navigate a growing number of challenges within these unprecedented times. Donor specialists are available to answer questions and verify a potential donor’s eligibility by calling 1-877-24-BLOOD or by requesting an appointment here.

Cascade Regional Blood Services

Tacoma: 220 South I Street
Puyallup: 615 East Pioneer Ave., Ste 114
Federal Way: 909 South 336th St., Ste B-102