Many potential blood donors may not be aware that they are eligible to donate blood to Canadian Blood Services. For more than two decades, people who lived or spent time in the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland or France in the 1980s and 1990s, were ineligible to donate. This eligibility criteria was put into place in the late 1990s by blood operators around the world as a precautionary measure during the ‘mad cow’ outbreak. Now, with nearly 30 years of surveillance and research from Canada and internationally, this criteria is no longer required.
“Our data tells us that since 2003 approximately 70,000 people in Canada tried to donate, but were not able to because of this criteria,” says Ron Vezina, vice president, public affairs. “Twenty years later, we hope those who are still able to do so, will come back to visit our donor centres.”
When the ‘mad cow’ outbreak occurred, little was known about the human form, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), and the possibility of it being transmitted through blood. Three decades of surveillance and research has now demonstrated that removing criteria related to potential exposure to beef products and transfusions in specific countries will not lead to an increase in vCJD.
Canadian Blood Services has now received Health Canada approval on a long-awaited eligibility change that could potentially welcome thousands of new blood and plasma donors. Now with the approval to remove the criteria for the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland and France, Canadian Blood Services is aligned with other blood operators that no longer have this rule in place, including the United States (2022), Australia (2022) and Israel (2023).
If you cannot donate, you can still help save lives in other ways. Visit blood.ca to learn how you can make all the difference for patients and their families. You can also ask friends, family and colleagues to donate blood or plasma and share the message on social media.