Blood donation can be a life-transforming experience. Vitalant wants as many people as possible to have this chance to give life in a way that is safe for all transfused patients and every donor. As a national blood provider, it is our responsibility to ensure the safety of the blood supply. Vitalant commits ongoing funding and resources to fully inform the decision-making process around policy and practice for donating blood.

Vitalant and Vitalant Research Institute are at the forefront of donor eligibility research that informs potential changes to donation policies. When change to existing policies are needed, Vitalant experts present our position with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and its Blood Products Advisory Committee, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Advisory Committee on Blood and Tissue Safety and Availability, and organizations such as the College of American Pathologists and AABB.

Policy in action

Vitalant is dedicated to the promotion of evidence-based policies. Our research institute investigators led the studies that presented the scientific data and testing advances prompting the December 2015 FDA change from a permanent deferral for men who have sex with other men (MSM) to a 12-month deferral since last sexual contact. However, we know that’s not the end of the story. We are committed to researching the feasibility of and, if research supports, advocating for the same approach for U.S. blood donors that countries including the United Kingdom and France have adopted: shorter deferral periods.

Individual risk-based assessment

We actively monitor and evaluate the efficacy of the individual risk assessment approach used in Spain, Italy and South Africa. This approach relies on donors being candid about their sexual history as part of the blood donation process. It also requires donors to have a common definition of certain sexual activities and comfort level discussing them, which is not easy.

In 2015, the Blood Donation Rules Opinion Study (Blood DROPS) evaluated how open U.S. donors would be to answering a range of personal questions. Ultimately, Blood DROPS found that people have varying degrees of comfort with the types of questions they might be willing to answer at the time of blood donation. They also have wide-ranging views on the types of activities they consider high-risk.

Vitalant is committed to patient safety and to expanded donor eligibility, where appropriate. We understand that there are varied opinions regarding the topic of blood donation by people across the human sexuality spectrum. Vitalant will continue to lead research and advocate for policies that seek to allow as many people as possible to have the chance to give life in a way that is safe for all transfused patients and every donor.