Bloody good news – we told you so!

Update – 12.30pm Friday 23 February – Media Release New Zealand Blood Service

People who lived in the United Kingdom, France or Republic of Ireland between 1980 and 1996 for six months or more during the ‘mad cow disease’ outbreak will finally be able to book to donate blood or plasma in New Zealand from Thursday February 29.

“It has taken some time for us to reach this point, but after more than 20 years, we are thrilled that we can safely remove this restriction and finally welcome this large cohort of new potential donors into our lifesaving whānau,” says New Zealand Blood Service (NZBS) chief executive Sam Cliffe.

“It’s impossible to say how many people living in New Zealand have been prevented from donating because of this. However, we estimate that we lost around eight to 10 percent of donors when this restriction was introduced.

“No doubt people will be eager to donate straightaway. Given the influx of new donors we’re expecting to welcome through our doors, we’re asking people to consider booking an appointment over the next few weeks. This will ensure the donation process runs as smoothly as possible for them and avoid overwhelming our donor centres or mobile drives.”

The restriction that prevented those who lived in the United Kingdom, France, or Republic of Ireland between 1980 and 1996 for six months or more from donating was implemented in 2000.

It was a precautionary measure in response to the outbreak of ‘mad cow’ disease and concerns about the risk of acquiring human variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) via blood or plasma transfusions.

The recommendation from NZBS to lift the restriction was approved by Medsafe following a review and detailed risk assessment.

NZBS’ clinical team worked with epidemiology and infectious disease experts at the University of New South Wales Kirby Institute for more than a year to research the risk of vCJD among New Zealand’s blood donor population.

That work showed the risk was negligible and that removing the restriction would not comprise the safety of blood and blood products in New Zealand.

With those previously impacted by the restriction finally being able to book an appointment to donate from Thursday 29 February 2024, they’ll first be encouraged to check their eligibility online because there may be other factors that mean they’re unable to give blood or much needed plasma. A basic eligibility quiz can be found on the NZBS website.

“This is an exciting time for everyone. Our teams are looking forward to welcoming all new donors into our lifesaving donor community.”

Earlier story – November 23, 2023

Mary Anne Gill’s card from 47 years ago.

Mary Anne Gill

The email arrived in my inbox at 12.53pm on Thursday November 16 – 46 years and 11 months since New Zealand Blood Transfusion Services last accepted my blood.

I have tried – but I am one of the country’s thousands of people whose blood is not accepted because of Mad Cow disease. It is because I lived in the United Kingdom between January 1, 1980 and December 31, 1996 for a period of six months or more.

It was in fact 10 months – the tail end of my overseas experience but time enough for me to be banned from rolling up my sleeves and giving blood or plasma.

People like me were made ineligible to donate blood because at that time there was an epidemic of the human variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, also known as ‘’mad cow disease’’.

When the ban was lifted in Australia last year, there was an eight per cent increase in numbers of people who donated blood or plasma.

We revealed 12 months ago the NZ Blood Service was going to make a submission to Medsafe recommending this restriction be removed, and it has.

I have pre-registered my interest, dug out my old Blood Donor card and am ready to make a difference in somebody else’s life.

The NZ Blood Service was in the Hauora Taiwhenua Health and Wellbeing Hub and had some good news for those who lived for more than six months in the UK, France or the Republic of Ireland between 1980-1996 who have been unable to donate blood. They have been ineligible because of the UK epidemic of human variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD), also known as ‘’mad cow disease’’. Australia and the USA have done away with the eligibility criteria and now New Zealand is set to do the same from next year. Cyril Mateum, left, and Steve Dalgety were sharing the good news.

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