The age limit for blood donors of 71 years has been lifted, in an effort to replenish the blood stocks of the Red Cross, a spokesperson said. The decision was taken by federal public health minister Maggie De Block, herself a qualified medical practitioner. “There was no scientific basis,” she said.
The measure will help the Red Cross to maintain stocks for the use of whole blood, platelets and plasma, said Ine Tassignon of the Flemish Red Cross. “Over the course of five years, some 8,000 donors will be able to continue giving blood, which is good for 15,000 donations a year,” she said. “Keeping stocks of donated blood is a challenge, and every little helps.”
Long term donors tend to be more regular and generous in giving blood, the organisation explained. In the past 12 months, the over-65s have given 14,000 donations, accounting for 5.5% of the total given.
Under the new age rule, a doctor will decide if a person over 71 is still able to give blood. At the last age change, in 2011, the limit was lifted from 66 years to 71 years, resulting in an additional 20,000 blood donations a year.
Blood donors are still, however, restricted to four donations a year, at least two months apart. Other restrictions depend on overseas visits in the last six months, operations in the last four months or giving birth in the last six months. Donations by men who have sexual relations with other men are strictly limited.