The one-year wait to donate blood after returning from a malaria-endemic area/country has come to an end. Blood donors can now donate only after 120 days of their return. The decision came into effect on Sunday.
Speaking to Muscat Daily, Dr Zainab Alfana Alarimi, director, Department of Blood Banks Services, Ministry of Health (MoH), said, “We are following the national blood donor selection criteria to ensure blood safety, which is based mainly on the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations. The WHO recommends that the donors can donate only after one year after visiting malaria endemic areas and this is now to be shortened to four months with the availability of malaria testing at MoH blood banks.”
Dr Zainab said that many countries, such as Australia and the United Kingdom, are also following this guideline of reducing the deferral to less than one year with the availability of malaria testing. “I think this will help us a lot as the percentage we were losing due to the one year deferral is almost about 20 per cent of those donors who were willing to donate blood as per our statistics from last year,” she said.
“More than 60 per cent of deferred donors stated that they travel at least once every year to the malaria endemic areas. The malaria endemic areas of exposure among our deferred donors are mainly from Asian countries (96 per cent) or Africa (4 per cent),” she added.
With the implementation of malaria testing for blood donors who visit malaria endemic areas frequently, MoH will be able to get about 5000 more donors, Dr Zainab said.
On the situation of the blood bank at the moment, Dr Zainab said, “The COVID-19 pandemic affected the availability of the blood supply and this is the situation all over the world. There is a dramatic reduction of blood donors and blood supply but the need for a sustainable and safe blood supply to treat patients is still there even during the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said.
“We are trying to maintain blood stocks to be able to support patients who are dependent on blood for their treatment, such as thalassaemia and sickle cell patients, cancer patients, trauma patients, some patients with COVID-19 and many more other patients,” she said
Dr Zainab added that the time now is very challenging for all the blood banks in Oman. “I would like to thank all the blood donors who donated blood to support the blood banks during this difficult time and invite all those who can donate blood to come forward and help us by donating blood. Remember that your blood can save lives,” she said.