Blood Bank to ease restrictions for donors

Blood Bank of Hawaii

The Blood Bank of Hawaii is rolling out new rules that will make it easier for people to donate.

Among the major changes: If you just got a tattoo or a body piercing, you used to have to wait one year to donate. Now, you can give blood immediately if your tattoo was done at a state-regulated shop, or your body piercing was professionally done using a sterile procedure with new jewelry and you have no signs of infection.

For those who battled cancer, in the past you had to be five years cancer-free before you could donate. Now, it’s just one year.

And if you had a heart condition or stroke, you used to not be able to donate blood at all. Now, you can donate if you’ve been seen by a physician and had at least three months with no symptoms or activity restrictions.

The changes in the rules could increase the potential number of donors at the blood bank. But with less restrictions, will the blood be as safe?

“A lot of what we’re changing is nothing that’s regulated,” said Dr. Randal Covin, Blood Bank of Hawaii. “All the FDA regulations, all the professional standards are all still being met. These are all local decisions that we had previously made about who was eligible to donate.”

Hawaii is not the first place to put these new rules into effect. Other major donor centers on the mainland have already used the new rules.

“They work the issues out and once it looks like it’s going well and there aren’t any extraneous issues that nobody thought of and it is in fact safe, then we feel more comfortable making the changes,” Dr. Covin said.

“This is the first major change that we’re making to make it easier for donors, to open the doors for more donors, so it’s incredibly important for Hawaii’s blood supply,” said Blood Bank of Hawaii president Kim-Anh Nguyen.

New donors, like Stacie Higa, are joining the blood donor list. “My dad’s been giving blood for a really long time and nobody else really does,” she said. “Everybody’s kind of scared of needles, and so am I, but I really want to give back.”

The screening process at blood banks across the country and here in Hawaii, including blood type matching, is extremely thorough.

There have been no contamination reports in Hawaii in recent history.

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