Dr. J. Jarrett Clinton, acting assistant secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, announced a new blood collection policy that went into effect Sept. 20. This new policy authorizes military installations and facilities to limit civilian blood drives if those drives would adversely affect the Armed Services Blood Program. "This authorization is intended to ensure the military has adequate donors to support readiness requirements for Operation Enduring Freedom," said Clinton.
Civilian collection agencies may schedule blood drives only on military installations where the Armed Services Blood Program does not collect blood or where there are sufficient donors to allow some collection by civilian agencies. The military Service blood program officers, local commanders and blood donor center officers will make these determinations.
DoD, like other civilian collection agencies, has decided to encourage donor populations to hold off from immediate donations. For DoD this will allow for phased donor contributions that provide a predictable, steady influx of blood and blood products for support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
"Individual donors who donate today are not eligible to donate again for eight weeks," explained Col. Glen M. Fitzpatrick, director of the Armed Services Blood Program Office. "However, the shelf life for fresh blood products is only six weeks. So, if everybody donates today, we'll have a two-week gap when our donors can't give."
While blood collection agencies have the capability of freezing red blood cells and other blood products, the logistics of freezing, storing and moving large amounts of blood products overseas precludes the exclusive use of frozen products. DoD's pre-positioned frozen blood stock is intended to fill the gap between the start of a contingency and the time that it takes to provide fresh blood and blood products to a contingency area.
Previously, many military installations and facilities allowed civilian agencies to run blood donor drives in addition to their own military blood drives. Such arrangements are mutually beneficial in peacetime. The military benefits by encouraging a habit of blood donation by its people and through the opportunity to provide an additional community service. Communities benefit through sustained support to their blood programs. Military donor populations are desirable donors because they tend to be healthy, undergo routine screening for illnesses that would preclude blood donation, and are required to maintain health in order to serve.
Earlier this month, the DoD delayed use of more stringent standards, regarding travel to outside the United States, for blood donors scheduled to take effect Sept. 14. DoD blood program officials indicated that, like civilian blood agencies, DoD donor centers were overwhelmed by volunteer donors in the wake of the recent terrorist attacks. The delay was implemented to allow for processing, documenting and storage of this blood. More information about the new standards, now scheduled for Oct. 29, is available here.