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FDA Releases Updated Deferrals

September 16, 2020 at 11:08 am

On September 17, SBC updated and, in some cases, reduced deferral periods for a number of risk factors, including travel to malaria-risk regions, tattoos, and risk of HIV (which includes guidance around men who have sex with men). These changes, which were recommended by the FDA earlier this year and are based on scientific health data, were proposed in the wake of a national decrease in blood donations during the COVID-19 pandemic but are expected to remain in effect after the pandemic has ended.

The shortening and elimination of these deferrals will no doubt provide many more individuals in our community the opportunity to save lives through blood donation. After months of carefully ensuring these changes were implemented safely and that our team members were trained thoroughly, we are excited to begin welcoming in many new and previously deferred donors from the community!

Please note: We are glad to start scheduling appointments with anyone who is ready to return to donating as soon as you are available! However, if you were deferred for any of the reasons associated with this change, you will need to book your next appointment by phone at 888-723-7831 rather than online so that one of our team members can remove the deferral from your online account.

Below we have outlined what the guidance has established at a national level for all blood centers, as well as what this means for our current and future collections processes at SBC.



Recommendations for Reducing the Risk of HIV Transmission
The following primary changes from the guidance would now constitute a three-month deferral rather than a twelve-month deferral:

  • engaging in sex for money or drugs
  • injecting non-prescription drugs
  • engaging in sex with anyone who has had sex for money or drugs
  • engaging in sex with anyone who has injected non-prescription drugs
  • receiving allogeneic transfusions of blood or components
  • having contact with someone else’s blood through percutaneous inoculation, such as needles stick of contact with open wound/mucous membranes
  • receiving a tattoo, ear/body piercing from any entity that is not regulated by the State of California
  • having a history of gonorrhea (eligible 3 months from completion of treatment)
  • for men, having sex with another man
  • for women, having sex with a man who had sex with another man within the previous 3 months

Recommendations for Reducing the Risk of Transmission of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease and Variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease (vCJD)

For geographical risk of vCJD (which is related to “mad cow disease”), this change finalizes the drafted guidance put out in January and eliminates the deferral of individuals who spent time on U.S. military bases in Europe. Individuals will still be deferred for possible vCJD risk related to time spent in the UK (cumulative 3 months from 1980-1996) and time spent in France or Ireland (cumulative 5 years from 1980-2001).

NOTE: If you have been previously deferred at SBC for travel to/residence in Europe or related vCJD risk, you MUST contact our Telerecruitment team at 888-723-7831 prior to making appointment in order to be cleared to donate, per FDA-approved processes.

Recommendations for Reducing the Risk of Transmission of Malaria
This change reduces deferral from 12 months to 3 months for travel to a malaria-endemic area. This does not, however, change deferral criteria for those who have lived in an endemic area.

To read the FDA’s full guidance, visit



If you have questions about your eligibility, call our team at 888-723-7831, or email us at



While we of course would love to have you as a blood donor, there are multiple ways you can support the cause without donating transfusable products, should you be deferred.

Donate for Research
Individuals who are deferred for certain reasons, most notably travel, may still be able to donate blood for research initiatives. While you won’t be impacting a patient directly, your donation could be used to develop any number of therapies and cures, thereby transforming patient care on a global scale. Learn more at

Host a Blood Drive
SBC conducts mobile blood drives throughout the Bay Area, collecting approximately half its annual blood supply in this manner — and we depend on Blood Drive Coordinators to do so! As a Blood Drive Coordinator, we would work with you to set up a drive at your company, church, or even civic group to help bring the opportunity to give blood to more people. Learn more at

Spread the Word
One of the main reasons people give for not donating blood is simply that they’ve never thought of it or haven’t been asked. By talking to others or sharing content about giving blood on your social media, you are helping expose countless individuals to the possibility of serving their communities through donating. For more tips for sharing on social media, visit