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As an international non-profit organization, every day DKMS provides 20 lifesaving blood stem cell transplants for blood cancer and blood disorder patients all around the world. Even in the current situation that we are facing with COVID-19, these patients still urgently need our help. It is for this reason that we keep fighting and continue to work together and collaborate with the international blood stem cell community to be able to overcome all barriers, to give as many patients as possible, who are in urgent need of a life-saving blood stem cell transplant, with a second chance at life.
Importance of registration
Due to the advice and directions from the health authorities regarding the COVID-19 virus and to play our part to flatten the curve, we have postponed all of our planned donor drives/registration events in all of our six countries. We want to make sure that we look after and protect all of our donors and volunteers. For the thousands of patients around the world who are not able to find a perfect match, we still urgently need to add more donors to the database. We are thankful for every registration and you can still order your registration kit online at www.dkms.org. Registering is simple and straightforward and you can become a potential lifesaver!
Protecting our donors
Patients around the world still urgently need blood stem cell transplants to survive. This is why we ask all of our donors to make themselves available if they are a match for a patient. The health and well-being of our donors is our number one priority and we consider every case on an individual basis. We will always do everything possible to ensure the safety of our donors.
We have implemented screening for the COVID-19 virus risks before entry to collection centers and before the start of a donation.
These measures serve to protect the donor as well as the recipient and the employees in the collection centers. Health experts have confirmed that there is currently no evidence that the COVID-19 virus can be transmitted via blood, bone marrow, or stem cell products.
We are grateful for every one of our incredible donors and for their commitment to providing patients with a second chance at life.
Transport of blood stem cell products
75% of all of our life-saving blood stem cell collections from DKMS donors travel across borders to patients in other countries. Due to the travel restrictions imposed by many countries because of the COVID-19 virus, we are faced with additional challenges in ensuring patients receive their transplant.
When it comes to transplants, time is crucial and we are determined to find solutions to be able to provide patients in need with their transplant. We are joining forces with other members of the international transplant community and national and international authorities in order to overcome these challenges. Despite the added difficulties that we are facing at the moment, as always, we are determined to overcome all barriers in order to provide as many patients as possible with a second chance at life.
1. Why have donor drives been cancelled or postponed and what is the alternative?
In light of the increasing spread of the COVID-19 virus, DKMS is postponing all planned events and registration drives for new potential blood stem cell donors until further notice. DKMS sees itself with a special duty of care and with these measures specifically follows the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control to protect of the population.
Blood cancer patients around the world are still in urgent need of bone marrow and blood stem cell transplants and many are still not able to find a matching donor. This is why DKMS continues to encourage everyone that is able to, to register as a blood stem cell donor and if required, to also make themselves available for a donation."We must not abandon any patient who is currently searching for a blood stem cell donor or waiting for a life-saving blood stem cell transplant. In this difficult situation, I urgently ask that everyone continues to make themselves available as donors. We are taking all precautions necessary to protect each and every one of our donors in the best possible way," said Dr. Elke Neujahr, Global CEO DKMS.
We are grateful for every registration and to enable everyone that is interested to be able to register, DKMS offers the possibility of virtual donor drives that gives initiators, families and friends the opportunity to host a virtual drive to add more potential lifesavers to the donor pool via our online platform which can be found by clicking here https://dkmsgetinvolved.org/virtual-donor-drive. With this capability, any planned on ground registration drives can take place digitally instead and potential donors, which are urgently needed, can still register. The links to the online registration drives can be shared via all channels.
As always, registering as a blood stem cell donor via our homepage at www.dkms.org is also possible. Anyone who is interested can easily order a registration kit to be sent to their home. With the help of three cotton swabs and clear instructions, as well as a consent form, every potential new donor can take a cheek swab themselves and send it via post back to DKMS. In the DKMS Life Science Lab the individual HLA characteristics (also: tissue characteristics) of the donor are then analyzed, allowing the potential donor to be registered in the DKMS database.
The difference between the online registration drives and the general online registration is that the online registration drives are linked to particular patient appeals and the number of donors can be tracked accordingly. However, in general, it doesn’t matter how you register, you will always be available as a potential lifesaver for blood cancer and blood disorder patients searching for a matching donor all over the world!
2. Am I still able to register online if I suspect that I may have or do have COVID- 19?
If it has been confirmed that you have been infected with the COVID-19 virus or you are awaiting test results, you unfortunately will not be able to register until 3 months after the infection has passed.
3. I registered online and haven’t received a confirmation, is there a delay?
We ask anyone registering as a potential donor online for their understanding. Normally we send all registration kits that we receive to our lab within 24 hours, however we are currently waiting 7 days until we do this to ensure the protection of our staff handling the returned registration kits. Please be assured that the analysis of your sample and HLA characteristics that is required for us to add you to the register, will take place as soon as possible.
4. How will DKMS maintain the safety of donors?
The health and safety of our donors is our highest priority. We will consider the circumstances of all of our donors who are asked to donate their bone marrow and blood stem cells, on an individual basis, especially regarding their travel to a collection center. Please be reassured that we provide the best and safest solution possible for our donors.
Unfortunately, donors who live in high risk areas have to be blocked for search requests, as they are currently not eligible to proceed with a donation. We also have implemented screening for the COVID-19 virus risks before entry to any collection center and before the start of a donation. These measures serve to protect the donor as well as the recipient and the employees in the collection centers. Health experts have confirmed that there is currently no evidence that the novel Coronavirus can be transmitted via blood, bone marrow, or stem cell products.
Please also understand that any planned collection may be postponed or cancelled due to the current situation. We will keep you informed about all developments. Regarding the transport of blood stem cell products to the respective transplant clinics, we are in regular and close contact with all parties involved as well as with all relevant national and international authorities and organizations, to ensure that all blood stem cell collections can reach the patients.
5. Is there an increased chance of donors contracting the COVID-19 virus during the donation procedure or preparation for the pr
There is no risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus as a result of a blood stem cell collection. The health and safety of our donors is our number one priority and we will always ensure all procedures are in place to protect their safety.
6. Can donors postpone their donation at this time?
The final decision to donate is always made by the actual donor. If you have been asked to donate and have any concerns, please contact your DKMS coordinator. We evaluate each case on an individual basis to find the best solution for all parties involved.
7. Is it still safe for patients to receive a transplant?
Health experts have confirmed that there is currently no evidence that the novel Coronavirus can be transmitted via blood, bone marrow, or stem cell products.
8. How is the transport of collections from donors impacted by the current travel restrictions?
The majority of blood stem cell collections from DKMS donors travel across borders to patients in other countries. Due to the travel restrictions imposed by many countries we are in regular and close contact with all parties involved in the transport, as well as with the relevant national and international authorities and organizations. Despite the added difficulties that we are facing at the moment, we are, as always, determined to overcome all barriers in order to provide as many patients as possible with a second chance at life.
9. How is DKMS responding to the current travel restrictions in the US?
Due to the restrictions on entry into the USA, DKMS has been in contact with the World Marrow Donor Association (WMDA) and the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP). Together, we obtained special permits for stem cell couriers from Germany and Europe to enter the USA.
10. How will the spread of the COVID-19 virus affect DKMS and its operations?
As with every organization across the world, DKMS faces challenges caused by COVID-19 and some of the potential impacts are still not yet known. The goal of DKMS remains the same as it always has been and that is, together with our outstanding team of donors and employees, to give as many patients as possible around the world a second chance at life, through a life-saving bone marrow and blood stem cell transplant. The management team of DKMS is working around the clock together with all DKMS employees and relevant stakeholders to achieve this goal.
11. How will DKMS respond as the situation evolves?
A dedicated team made up of experts from relevant departments at DKMS is constantly monitoring and evaluating the ongoing situation and will act accordingly. We will continue to keep our donors and all stakeholders updated.
12. Is DKMS testing potential donors during the registration process?
DKMS does not test potential donors who register with us for the COVID-19 virus. If you are confirmed to have the virus, we ask that you do not register with us for the next 3 months. For donors who are asked to donate we have implemented screening for the COVID-19 virus risks before entering any collection center and before the start of a donation. These measures serve to protect the donor as well as the recipient and the employees in the collection center.
13. If I am a potential donor and I have questions, who should I contact?
If you have been contacted by DKMS as a potential donor and if you have any questions or concerns, you are encourage to contact your DKMS coordinator. As always, DKMS staff is there to help you through the process and answer any questions that you may have.
14. Is there a need for quarantine or testing of stem cell products before transplantation?
Although SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV have been detected in blood, there have not been any reports of transmission from donor to recipient either in transfusion of blood products or cellular therapies. As there is no evidence of transmission via blood, bone marrow, or stem cell products DKMS endorses the recommendations of the regulatory agencies such as the FDA and AABB which currently do not recommend or require product testing or to quarantine the stem cell product. For more information, please visit: share.wmda.info.
If a patient is in need of a transplant, there is no need to wait or prolong the process by testing or quarantining the stem cell product. Planned transplantations can go ahead.