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Canadian Blood Services mulling shorter wait time for gay donors

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Canadian Blood Services (CBS) is considering another change to its donation policy that would allow gay men who have abstained from sex for three months to give blood, down from the current one-year waiting period. 

The organization — which manages the national supply of blood products — says it has been reviewing research that suggests the abstinence period can be reduced and still keep the blood supply safe.

CBS is “currently discussing the results of the analysis with stakeholders and partners,” including patient and LGBT groups, and its provincial counterpart Héma-Québec, said spokesperson Ross FitzGerald in an email. 

Health Canada would have to approve the change. CBS did not provide a date or timeline for the potential change.

Gay and bisexual men have faced restrictions since the tainted blood scandal of the 1980s, when thousands of Canadians were infected with HIV or hepatitis C from donated blood. 

A lifetime ban was lifted in 2013, when Canada moved to a policy that allowed donations from men who said they had abstained from sex with other men for five years. In 2016, that deferral period was dropped to one year. 

Human rights advocate Christopher Karas has filed a complaint about the deferral period at the Canadian Human Rights Commission. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

“Any reduction in the deferral is a good thing,” said Dr. Dustin Costescu, a family planning specialist, and assistant professor at McMaster University in Hamilton, who is gay.

“I would imagine they’ve landed on three months because it’s the standard accepted window,” for accurate testing, he said. 

The window exists because an early HIV infection might not appear during a blood test. Tests also can’t identify if someone has been in contact with an HIV-positive person. 

Someone becomes HIV positive when their body begins resisting the virus, Costescu said.  

CBS considers men who have sex with men a high-risk group, as they account for the largest proportion of new HIV infections reported in Canada.

In 2016, this group represented 44.1 per cent of reported HIV cases in Canada.

Attainable targets

Many have pushed for CBS and Health Canada to drop the deferral period altogether, calling it discriminatory.

“It’s still having the same effect as the policy that came before it and it still makes us feel ‘less than,'” said Christopher Karas, a human rights advocate who has filed a complaint about it at the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

“It needs to apply across the board to everyone. If that’s not the case, then the policy shouldn’t exist.”

Kat Lanteigne, head of the safety watchdog group Blood Watch, says the best way to protect Canada’s blood supply is to screen for behaviours that might put individuals at risk of HIV infection, rather than labelling entire groups as high risk donors. (Kat Lanteigne)

Dropping to a three-month deferral could lead to more blood donations from LGBT people, specifically men who have relationships with men and women, said Costescu. But he thinks the policy needs to continue evolving, toward behaviour-based screening. 

“By making deferral targets more attainable people can make a more informed choice about whether they want to participate in the blood donation process,” he said. 

“Asking people to defer specific behaviours rather than deferring their entire orientation would be more realistic.”

‘Unfair’ label

Canada’s one-year deferral is in line with the policies of the U.S., Australia and Japan, while other countries, including Italy and Spain, use a behaviour-based approach.

That approach screens out gay men who have unprotected sex with multiple partners, as opposed to those who are in monogamous relationships. 

That would be more effective than a blanket waiting period, said Kat Lanteigne, executive director of Blood Watch, a not-for-profit that advocates for a safe, voluntary blood supply.

“The safest way to manage a donor base, in our view, is to ensure that you are screening every single individual donor and that it’s behaviour based,”she said.

“We have a whole generation, you know, coming up behind us where there’s a lot of gender fluidity,” she said, adding it’s “unfair to label” gay men as the only part of the population who are at risk.

In the meantime, Blood Watch supports reducing the deferral period to three months, she said.

CBS said it might change its screening process. 

“[We’re] focused on moving away from a time-based deferral … to an alternative screening approach, which may evolve the current deferral policy,” FitzGerald said. 

Haran Vijayanathan, executive director for the Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention, called on CBS, which routinely faces donor shortages, to quicken the process. 

“We’re going into the holiday season, into the winter months and we know accidents go up,” he said. “They’re desperately short on blood… You’re going to test that blood before you transfuse it anyways, so why even three months?”

Despite the LGBT community and CBS being at “somewhat oppositional ends right now,” Costescu encourages those who can eventually donate under a three-month policy to do so — to “show the world we want to donate.”

“At some point, we as a community… will have to decide what we’re comfortable with in terms of what a deferral period looks like,” he said.

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Post-vaccine surge? Michigan’s spring coronavirus case spike close to previous year’s autumn high

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(Natural News) The spike in new Wuhan coronavirus infections recorded in Michigan over the spring is similar to a spike seen during the 2020 fall season. According to a Wall Street Journal analysis, the state’s daily coronavirus case count averaged more than 7,000 for almost two weeks – before taking a slight dip to 6,891 on April 20. This echoed similar figures back in November and December 2020, which saw sharp rises in infections for those two months before plunging.

Back in autumn of last year, Michigan averaged more than 7,000 cases per day for a span of 10 days. New infections dropped slightly, then briefly spiked as the December holidays approached. It then fell to the low 1,000s for the succeeding two months – until ascending again in March.

According to University of Michigan internal medicine professor Dr. Vikas Parekh, the sudden increase in new infections could be attributed to several factors. Among the factors he cited was re-openings, which increased people’s interactions and mobility. Parekh said the loosened restrictions contributed to the spread of the highly contagious U.K. B117 variant.

“As the B117 variant spreads nationally, we will likely see other stats [with] their own surges – although I hope none are as bad as Michigan,” the professor remarked. He continued: “The milestone just tells us we are not yet in the clear, especially as we still have large portions of our population who are not vaccinated yet.”

Parekh also expressed optimism over the lower daily caseloads the Great Lakes State reported. He said he believes both cases and hospitalizations have plateaued and will likely decline soon. The professor commented: “[COVID-19] positivity has been declining now for one week, which is usually a leading indicator of case decline.”

Meanwhile, the state cited younger populations and youth sports, such as basketball, wrestling and hockey, to increase new COVID-19 infections. Because of this, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called to suspend youth sports and indoor dining in the state. She also exhorted high schools to conduct remote class sessions for two weeks to curb the spread of the pathogen.

Michigan still experienced the spike in cases despite having one of the highest vaccination rates in the country

During the opening stages of the U.S.’s immunization drive against COVID-19, Michigan boasted of having one of the highest vaccination rates nationwide. A report by Bridge Michigan even noted the initial “frenzy for vaccines” that “far exceeded the state’s limited supply.” But things have appeared to turn around for Michigan, as it now struggles to reach the 70 percent vaccination rate needed for herd immunity.

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Scottish mom’s legs turn into a pair of “giant blisters” after first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine

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(Natural News) Sarah Beuckmann of Glasgow, Scotland, felt a tingling sensation in her legs and noticed a rash flaring up around her ankles a week after getting her first dose of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine on March 18.

She also had flu-like symptoms right after the vaccination.

Beuckmann called her doctor to arrange an appointment the morning she noticed the rash, but by the afternoon her skin was already breaking out into blood-filled blisters. Blisters also appeared on her legs, hands, face, arms and bottom.

“I ended up asking my husband to take me to A&E,” said Beuckmann, referring to “accident and emergency,” the equivalent of an emergency room (ER). “When I got there, my heart rate was sitting at 160bpm, which they were very concerned about. I got put on an ECG machine.”

Doctors determine AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine triggers the rash

Medics carried out tests for HIV, herpes and other skin conditions to work out what triggered the rash, but all results came back negative. Doctors finally determined that the vaccine caused her rare reaction after carrying out two biopsies.

“Once they found that it was a reaction to the vaccine, they put me on steroids and that really seems to be helping my progress,” said Beuckmann. She had been advised by her doctor not to get the second dose of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine because of her reaction.

Beuckmann spent 16 days at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. She was discharged to recover at home. The 34-year-old mother of one is currently wheelchair-bound due to the bandages on her legs and blisters on the soles of her feet. She may need physiotherapy to help strengthen her leg muscles.

“They are starting to heal and they’re looking a lot better than they were but as the blisters started to get worse, they all sort of merged together,” she said. “I didn’t know what was going on.”

With the blisters merging, her legs have looked like a pair of “giant blisters.” Beuckmann admitted that at one point she feared her legs might have to be amputated.

Dermatologist agrees COVID-19 vaccine causes the blisters

Dr. Emma Wedgeworth, a consultant dermatologist and spokeswoman at the British Skin Foundation, agreed that Beuckmann had likely suffered a reaction to the vaccine.

“Vaccines are designed to activate the immune system. Occasionally people will have quite dramatic activation of their immune systems which, as happened in this case, can manifest in their skin” Wedgeworth told MailOnline. “This poor lady had a very severe reaction, which thankfully is extremely rare.”

It is not clear why Beuckmann, who works in retail, was invited for a vaccine. Scotland’s vaccine rollout was focused on people over the age of 50 when she got vaccinated, although vaccines are available to those who are considered at risk from the virus, or live with someone considered vulnerable.

At least 20 million Briton have had AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, which drug regulators say causes a rash in one percent of cases. They say rashes caused by the jab tend to go away within a week.

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Trojan labs? Chinese biotech company offers to build COVID testing labs in six states

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In 2012, BGI acquired Complete Genomics, a DNA sequencing company and equipment maker. The funds for the $117.6 million purchase were raised from Chinese venture capitals. The company has expanded its footprint globally. According to its website, BGI conducts business in more than 100 countries and areas and has 11 offices and labs in the U.S.

People are concerned about China’s access to American DNA data

Some said that with Complete Genomics providing an American base, BGI would have access to more DNA samples from Americans, helping it compile a huge database of genetic information. Some also worried about the protection of the genetic information’s privacy.

According to a 2019 report from the U.S.–China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC), BGI “has formed numerous partnerships with U.S. healthcare providers and research organizations to provide large-scale genetic sequencing to support medical research efforts,”

There are three main reasons why many people in the biotech community and government have expressed concerns about China’s access to American DNA data.

In the “60 Minutes” interview, Evanina discussed the very likely scenario in which Chinese companies would be able to micro-target American individuals and offer customized preventative solutions based on their DNA.

Evanina asked: “Do we want to have another nation systematically eliminate our healthcare services? Are we okay with that as a nation?”

The second concern is that China may use DNA to track and attack American individuals. As the USCC report states: “China could target vulnerabilities in specific individuals brought to light by genomic data or health records. Individuals targeted in such attacks would likely be strategically identified persons, such as diplomats, politicians, high-ranking federal officials or military leadership.”

The third concern is that China may devise bioweapons to target non-Asians. Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, discussed it in his article “What Will China Do With Your DNA?” published by The Epoch Times in March 2019.

He wrote: “We know that the Asian genome is genetically distinct from the Caucasian and African in many ways. … Would it be possible to bioengineer a very virulent version of, say, smallpox, that was easily transmitted, fatal to other races, but to which the Chinese enjoyed a natural immunity? … Given our present ability to manipulate genomes, if such a bio-weapon can be imagined, it can probably – given enough time and resources – be realized.”

An article from Technocracy said: “China’s aggressive collection of American DNA should be doubly alarming because it can only spell one ultimate outcome: biowarfare. That is, genetically engineering viruses or other diseases that will be selectively harmful to U.S. populations.”

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