Meet 6 people celebrating vCJD-related changes to blood donation eligibility criteria

February 14, 2024
Blood donor holding his one-year-old son in front of Canadian Blood Services logo

Restrictions related to variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD), the human variant of ‘mad cow,’ were lifted in December 2023 

In December 2023, thousands of people across Canada became newly eligible to donate blood, plasma or platelets. It was because of an update to blood donation eligibility criteria related to variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), the human variant of ‘mad cow.’

Within the first month of the change taking effect, more than 3000 people donated as a direct result, and that number continues to climb. It’s been so exciting to welcome all these donors to our centres — some for the first time in decades, others for the first time ever. Below are just a few of their stories. 

Have a story of your own to tell? Please tell us about it via our My Story portal. We’d love to share your experience to inspire others. 

1. After blood donors saved his son, he was thrilled to become eligible to donate blood himself 

Blood donor in blood donation chair holding a sign that says “My first donation.”
Marvin Thomas donated blood for the first time in Canada after restrictions related to mad cow disease were lifted.

Marvin Thomas’s son, Rashaun, needed blood twice very soon after his birth. During pregnancy, Rashaun’s mother, Alicia Perera-Thomas, had developed antibodies that attacked Rashaun’s red blood cells in utero.    

As luck would have it, the vCJD-related blood donation eligibility change took effect shortly before Rashaun’s first birthday. That meant Marvin, who is from the U.K., was able to make his first blood donation in Canada at Rashaun’s special birthday celebration at our Scarborough donor centre. 

“Because of the experience we went through, it just raised the importance of donating blood,” says Marvin. “Now that I can donate blood, I’m really excited to.”


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2. A committed blood donor from France celebrates new blood donation eligibility in Canada  

“I have been waiting for this day since I first moved to Canada in 2014,” said Astrid Moulin on Instagram. Astrid used to donate blood a couple of times a year when she lived in France, but had not been eligible to do so here because of vCJD-related blood donation eligibility requirements. 

“I was very emotional booking my appointment. I was so excited yesterday when I got there,” she continued. “It’s a simple thing we can do to help people who need it.” 

Check out Astrid’s video above for a peek inside her blood donation experience. 

3. The joyful end to a 28-year wait to donate blood in Canada 

Blood donor in scrubs wearing “1st time donor” sticker while donating blood
David Morrison became eligible to donate blood for the first time in 28 years after restrictions related to mad cow disease were lifted.

David Morrison donated blood dozens of times as a young adult in the U.K. But after moving to Canada in 1996, he had to stop because of blood donation eligibility criteria related to vCJD.  

He was thrilled to be able to make his first donation in Canada in early January, just a few weeks after the restrictions were lifted. He booked that first appointment at a donation event at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, the hospital where he works as a clinical anaplastologist (a healthcare professional who creates facial prosthetics). 

“I have always been blessed with good health in general, and really, I’m just happy to give some blood to someone who is having a bad day and needs it,” says David. “Helping each other along is what makes the world go round. And I’m glad to do it.” 

4. Donating blood in gratitude for a spouse’s blood transfusions 

A blood donor looks ahead while sitting in a chair donating blood
Padma Ranjan donated blood for the first time shortly after blood donation eligibility criteria were updated. A former resident of the U.K., she’d been ineligible because of restrictions related to variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD).

Padma Ranjan’s husband has a medical condition that has required multiple blood transfusions in the past few years.   
“I initially tried to donate for the first time over a year ago, because I wanted to feel like I was supporting him, and to give back,” says Padma. “But I wasn’t able to because I had lived in the UK for a decade. When I heard the eligibility changed, I donated as soon as I could.  

“I feel grateful that I can now help patients in the same way my husband has been helped.” 

5. With his first blood donation in Canada, he resumed a lifesaving family tradition 

James Sharman grew up seeing his dad’s pride in donating blood in the U.K. So since moving to Canada in 1990, he’d always felt a little sad he couldn’t do it himself.  

“When I found out regulations would change, I was thrilled. Finally I could follow in my dad’s footsteps and donate blood.” 

6. Donating blood after vCJD-related changes is a new way to help for a Canadian Blood Services leader 

Blood donor in donation chair holding a sign that says “My first donation” with Canadian Blood Services employee at his side.
Dr. Isra Levy, seen here with donor centre supervisor Amanda Marcantonio, donated blood for the first time in Canada in December 2023. A former U.K. resident, he became eligible after vCJD-related changes to blood donation eligibility criteria.

As Canadian Blood Services’ vice-president of medical affairs and innovation, Dr. Isra Levy worked to support the research around the vCJD-related blood donation eligibility change — while patiently waiting to be able to donate blood himself.  

While Dr. Levy had been a regular blood donor previously, time living in the U.K. had made him ineligible to donate blood since immigrating to Canada. The wait ended on Dec. 26, 2023, when he donated blood in Ottawa, Ont. 

Wondering about your eligibility to donate blood? Our two-minute blood donation eligibility quiz is a great place to start. And if you’ve been told in the past you can’t donate, we urge you to check back from time to time, to see if there’s been an update that affects you. You can review our ABCs of eligibility or give us a call at 1 888 2 DONATE. Together, we are Canada’s Lifeline

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