New Zealand will not follow the United States in relaxing blood donation laws for men who have sex with men (MSM).
The New Zealand Blood Service (NZBS) said they are aware the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States has reviewed and updated its deferral recommendations relating to MSM, changing the deferral period from 12-months to three months.
The spokesperson said the MSM policy change, based on data and recent studies, has been implemented to help support a safe and adequate supply of blood during the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States.
“NZBS is aware of reviews and changes to deferral policies taking place in a number of other countries,” NZBS Spokesperson said.
“We understand that this is an important issue and that it is essential that we ensure that we follow international best practice.”
“To that end, we are in the process of convening another independent review to reassess the medical and scientific evidence.”
“Such reviews take time and we would not expect any recommendations to be available until 2021.”
The last change to the New Zealand behavioural donor eligibility criteria was reviewed by an independent expert panel in 2014 where the deferral period for men who have sex with men was reduced from five years to 12 months.
As part of the 2014 review, it was recommended the criteria should be reviewed again when there was information which might materially affect future decisions.
“Any changes to NZBS’s behavioural donor eligibility criteria must involve an independent review that has then undergone further scientific peer review, with proposed changes accepted by the NZBS Board,” said NZBS Spokesperson.
“Compliance with New Zealand law, and Medsafe approval will be required before any changes can be implemented.”
“NZBS has a primary statutory responsibility to ensure the ongoing safety of blood and blood products provided in New Zealand.”
“Blood stock levels in New Zealand currently remain at a healthy level during the Level 4 COVID-19 lockdown period.”