New York may get reprieve from anticipated major blood shortage
WASHINGTON (AP) – New York may get a reprieve from a massive blood shortage: The government is considering banning blood imported from Europe that makes up almost a third of that city’s supply, but says any such ban would not begin before the fall of 2002.
The Food and Drug Administration’s timetable comes as the nation’s top blood banks pledged Wednesday to ship thousands of units of blood donated in other parts of the country to make up for New York’s anticipated shortfall.
”Just a week ago, we were starting to get into a rationing plan with our hospitals,” said Dr. Robert Jones of the New York Blood Center.
The nation’s blood supply is becoming increasingly tight, dipping to crisis levels in some areas over the last year. Many experts fear supplies could become even tighter soon because of two developments:
-As new precautions against mad cow disease, the American Red Cross next month will turn away thousands of donors who have spent a cumulative three months in Britain or six months in any part of Europe since 1980.
-The FDA is considering similar, but not as strict, precautions. Part of its plan would ban some 150,000 units of blood currently shipped to New York from Europe.
If the FDA ultimately bans the European shipments, that would not begin before fall 2002 ”to allow sufficient time for the system to adjust,” blood chief Dr. Jay Epstein said Wednesday.
The Red Cross, which supplies half the nation’s blood supply, and America’s Blood Centers, which supplies the other half, pledged Wednesday to replace the European blood.
America’s Blood Centers pledged to ship New York 75,000 units annually from other states. The Red Cross pledged to ship as much blood as needed, up to 15,000 units a month.
How will the Red Cross have extra blood for New York with its own nationwide cuts? The FDA has estimated the Red Cross’ mad-cow restrictions will cut 750,000 units of donated blood a year.
Red Cross vice president Jacquelyn Fredrick disputed that figure, saying the policy would cut only about 235,000 units of blood. To recoup that blood, the agency has begun an intensive donation campaign that already has begun increasing collections, she said.
Many cities that cannot collect enough blood locally depend on shipments from across the country. Southern California hospitals, for instance, are estimated to get over 200,000 units a year from other states.
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