New York City is just one of the many regions that have a huge spike in coronavirus cases and a prime need is blood. Blood drives in the United States have been put on hold, leaving medical institutions in a tough spot. Calls to revise the restrictions set on blood donations from gay or bisexual men have been suggested but the request of congress was thumbed down by the Trump administration.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finds itself in a spot as hospitals are in dire need of blood donations. The New York Blood Center took quite a hit after more than 600 blood drives were canceled, roughly losing about 25,000 in potential blood donations. Calls have been made to revise the FDA policy that dates back to the early 1980s.
At that time, there was another epidemic concerning HIV/AIDS. Part of the policy was for blood banks to reject blood donations from men who have been sexually active with other men in the past 12 months.
An unnamed FDA official said to the New York Daily News that they are fully aware of the reduction in blood and plasma donations. However, he added that they need to evaluate making amendments to the existing policy and that they are not entirely closing the door on it.
“But we are actively considering the situation as the outbreak progresses,” the unnamed FDA official said.
A couple of New York representatives, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Carolyn Maloney sent a letter to FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn urging him to revise the antiquated policy in the light of the growing spread of the coronavirus. They point out how it prevents willing individuals to donate up to 615,000 pints of blood every year.
“This antiquated policy is not based on current science … and undermines crucial efforts to increase the nation’s blood supply as the United States grapples with the coronavirus crisis,” the lawmakers wrote.
Hospitals are running low on blood supply with patients in the U.S. requiring blood transfusion every two seconds, according to the American Red Cross, as reported by Fox News. They are one of the institutions reeling from the cancellation of blood drives across the country, possibly losing by as much as 80 percent of blood from drives that may have been canceled. The American Red Cross accounts for more than 40 percent of the nation’s blood supply.
“We’ve had to really monitor it really well and we have had to cut back some surgeries that might use some units of blood. So far, we have been okay, but the problem is we don’t have enough on the shelves just in case,” Mark Arneson, Director of Atlanta’s Piedmont hospital, said.