Whether it’s for using antibodies from those who recovered from COVID-19 to help those currently suffering or for blood transfusions for standard procedures, the nation is in dire need of blood donations. While the FDA made a move two weeks ago easing restrictions for gay men to donate, it appears it won’t be as beneficial in the short-term as initially thought.
According to NBC News, multiple gay men have reported being denied access to donate blood despite meeting the new FDA requirements. On April 2, after a petition was filed by GLAAD, the FDA changed their restrictions on gay men having to abstain from sexual activity from one year to three months before being eligible to donate blood. It was initially believed that lifting the restriction meant gay men would immediately be able to donate blood to help with the shortage.
“I’ve been through a month of hell with this virus. I’m finally recovered. I’ve been through a screening process that tells me I’m a potential candidate to help somebody else and now I’m being told I can’t.” Lukus Estok, a gay man who’s recovered from COVID-19, told NBC News.
From NBC News:
Estok and other gay men who have tried to give blood since April 2 have been unable to do so because many blood donation centers have not yet trained staffers or updated their computer systems to accommodate the new rule. It’s also because a trade group to which nearly all U.S. blood banks belong has not yet gotten approval for an important document from the FDA.
Those who work at blood banks are equally frustrated with the inability to take these donations. While they now have authorization to accept these donations, they still need to update their systems, protocols and training processes before they can begin to actively enforce the new rule. “When the FDA says the word ‘immediately’ that means something totally different in our world. It takes about three months to implement this stuff but [the FDA] is relying on us to communicate that to the public.” Linda Goelzer, a spokesperson for Carter BloodCare in Dallas, said.
The FDA has acknowledged that it will take time for blood banks to implement the new rule and has offered assistance in expediting the process. As it stands, it’s unfortunate that there are people who are perfectly capable of helping with the crisis and can’t due to bureaucracy and discriminatory restrictions.