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Bill to reverse ban on paid blood donations passes Alberta Legislature

PHOTO. Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA Tany Yao. Supplied by the Government of Alberta.

Bill 204 or the Voluntary Blood Donations Repeal Act passed the legislative assembly on Nov. 16.

Introduced by Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA Tany Yao in July, the private members bill repeals Bill 3, which the previous NDP government enacted in 2017.

READ MORE: MLA Tany Yao tables bill to reverse ban on paid blood donations

The bill would help to increase the domestic supply of plasma for the development of plasma-based products and medications.

Yao said it’s rare private members bills go through.

“It’s also a significant bill because he has real-life implications for people who need these products.”

Plasma comprises nearly 55 per cent of our blood volume carrying vital components like blood cells, clotting factors, proteins, and antibodies.

Plasma-based medications

Speaking in the legislature, Yao said Alberta spends $150-million annually on plasma-based products.

He touched on the world supply shortage from 2019, which resulted in hardships for many of the 8,000 Albertans who need plasma.

“This year, the year of COVID, we have learned that international supply lines can be jeopardized, and we experienced shortages in things like masks and ventilators and other vital supplies. If there’s one thing that we can learn from this most recent pandemic, it’s that nations like ours need to be more self resilient.”

Yao said Alberta must be less dependent on foreign countries for equipment, supplies and medications.

Canadian Blood Services and HémaQuébec produce 16.7 per cent of the plasma required to meet the demands of Canadians.

Yao added change for Albertans will not come overnight.

“We might see some independent agencies come in and setup plasma collection sites. The plasma that’s collected for this purpose is sent to these biopharmaceutical places currently located in places like the United States and Germany. There, they develop it into medication, and then we buy it back.”

Canada is the second-highest purchaser per capita of plasma-based products behind the United States.

Immunodeficiency Canada said Primary Immunodeficiency affects one in 1200 individuals or as many as 50,000 Canadians.

When asked about opposition to Bill 204, Yao addressed a statement from the Alberta NDP claiming the Canadian Hemophilia Society (CHS) opposed the bill.

He said he received correspondence from them saying its B.C. chapter disagrees with the national organization.

“Not only do the Canadian Hemophilia Society’s members support my private member’s bill, but so do their relevant related agencies from around the world. That is good to hear, that they’re open minded in ensuring that.”

CHS said as many as 300,000 Canadians carry an inherited bleeding disorder gene.

Opposition MLA Marie Renaud said Bill 204 will not increase the province’s blood supply.

“Bill 204 will decrease the blood supply for Albertans and Canadians, allowing international companies to come to Alberta and export blood, and will decrease control for Canadian Blood Services on that supply of blood.”

Yao defended Bill 204 saying it deals with the plasma component within the blood.

“The blood and plasma, that Canadian Blood Services collects, that’s used in our operating rooms, surgical suites, and emergency departments. The plasma that is being collected by these companies is manipulated and turned into medications, so that might add more [antibodies], for example, to help people with burns.”

Yao said he will continue to donate blood to Canadian Blood Services.

UCP MLA Jordan Walker of Sherwood Park thanked Yao for bringing forward the bill.

“It is the responsibility of government to ensure the safety and well-being of its citizens. This ranges from making sure that drivers who are on the road know what they are doing to indeed monitoring our health system to ensure that Canadians and Albertans have access to enough vital and lifesaving medical supplies.”

With the passage of the bill, Yao hopes it will lead to further research, development, and long-term investment in Alberta.

He added the bill may receive Royal Assent in December at the earliest.