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Good response to new donation rules

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Good response to new donation rules

Former UK residents have rolled up their sleeves in impressive numbers since the ‘mad cow’ ban on blood donors was lifted last year.

Sunshine Coast residents who were once prohibited from donating blood have made a significant contribution to improving the lives of others in the one year since the ‘mad cow’ ban was lifted.

The Coast has emerged as the second-highest region in Queensland for United Kingdom blood donors, with 1100 new blood and plasma givers in the past 12 months.

From these donors, the number of blood and plasma collections made was 3800.

This includes Coast local Patrick O’Kane, who has embraced his newly eligible status by donating blood and plasma 26 times.

Meanwhile, Lifeblood’s Blood Donor Centres across Queensland have welcomed 7000 new donors, with 24,000 collections made.

Lifeblood spokesperson Belinda Smetioukh is thanking Mr O’Kane and all new donors, saying this group of people is now accounting for nearly one-in-10 donations in Australia.

“We expected 18,000 new donors would roll up their sleeves, but more than 34,000 have come forward nationally – that’s enough people to fill 340 double-decker London buses,” Ms Smetioukh says.

“All up, more than 123,000 donations were made in the first 12 months by people who lived in the United Kingdom between 1980 and 1996, which is a fantastic result.”

Australia was one of the first countries in the world to lift the ‘mad cow’ ban, which had been in place since 2000 as a precautionary measure.

The ban impacted people who lived in England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands, Isle of Man and the Falkland Islands for six months or more between 1980 and 1996.

It was removed in July 2022, following an in-depth risk assessment, performed by Lifeblood and UNSW Sydney’s Kirby Institute.

The review found there would be no risk of acquiring human variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD), known as mad cow, from blood donations.

Lifeblood regularly reviews eligibility rules, most recently reducing the wait period for blood donations from four months to seven days for people with tattoos.

Given rules do change, Ms Smetioukh says it is likely many people do not realise they are eligible to donate blood and plasma.

“I urge the community not to rule themselves out,” she says.

“After all, one-in-three Australians will need blood or blood products in their lifetime.

“With demand at its highest in a decade, we still need more donors to boost supplies.

“Right now, in particular, we need more people with O positive and O negative to book a donation.”

To check eligibility and book a donation, call 13 14 95, visit lifeblood.com.au or download the Donate Blood app.

By the numbers

In the first 12 months since the ban was lifted:

  • UK donors contributed eight per cent of all blood and plasma donations
  • 76 per cent of UK donors returned for a second donation (the average new donor return rate is 60 per cent)
  • 95 UK donors have donated more than 20 times in a year.

Did you know?

Kirby Institute researcher Dr Skye McGregor says the UK restriction was the biggest reason people were permanently deferred from donating blood, impacting 4.4 per cent of the population.

“Australia’s first study into blood donation eligibility, conducted by the Kirby Institute and Lifeblood and published in Transfusion, shows around 10.5 million people are eligible to donate blood in Australia,” Dr McGregor says. “Currently, just 14.2 percent of the eligible population are donating blood, which means there’s a huge number of people who could be donating but aren’t. The study also shows a high level of mis-perceptions around blood donation eligibility, including last year’s UK change, and we believe awareness may be the single-biggest barrier to lifting donation rates.”

 

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