The Covid-19 pandemic has depleted our nation’s blood supply. Blood banks across the country are operating below capacity, and patients are paying the price.
As we march together through the pandemic, many people are searching for ways to help others. One of the easiest ways to support the surrounding community is to schedule a local blood bank visit and make a donation.
According to the Red Cross, someone in the US needs blood every two seconds. The US requires 38,000 blood donations every day to meet the demand. While almost half of Americans are eligible to give blood, only 2% of the population donates.
Each blood donation saves up to three lives.
Covid-19 patients often require life-saving blood, plasma, and platelet transfusions. But hospitals need blood products for day-to-day patient care.
Blood products are used during surgery for car accidents and other trauma. Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy often require frequent transfusions. Patients with chronic conditions, like sickle cell anemia, require transfusions throughout their lives.
In my specialty, Obstetrics, and Gynecology, blood transfusions are sometimes needed to save a pregnant person’s life. Pregnancy conditions like preeclampsia destroy red blood cells and prevent blood from clotting. Conditions like uterine atony, placenta previa, and placental abruption often require mass transfusion protocols to keep mom and baby safe.
The Red Cross reports the US uses 36,000 units of red blood cells, 7,000 units of platelets, and 10,000 units of plasma every day
The reduction in blood donations is an under-reported pandemic side effect. Lockdown forced many blood banks across the country to close or delay donations. Community blood drives were canceled. Blood donations slowed a the same time the high number of critically ill patients due to Covid-19 increased the hospital demand.
The surge in Covid-19 cases last fall struck just as national blood banks hit their traditional donation “slow season” from Thanksgiving through the Holiday Season.
One gift Americans can give is a blood donation. Community involvement is crucial to increase the blood products available to people who need them.
Donating blood is not as scary as it sounds. After booking an appointment, donors will fill out a health history. If the donor meets the designated criteria, a staff member will insert an intravenous line (IV) into a vein. The process lasts about 10 minutes for whole blood donation and longer for plasma and platelet donation.
Most blood banks need all blood types and blood products, including plasma and platelets. Red blood cells (RBCs) help deliver oxygen from the lungs to tissues and organs. Platelets help the blood clot after an injury.
Type O negative blood is in high demand. People with type O blood are known as “universal donors.” Type O negative blood can be used in the highest number of people.
The FDA has released updated guidelines regarding blood donation and Covid-19. The FDA highlights the fact that blood transfusions do not transmit respiratory viruses. There have been “no reported cases of transfusion-transmitted coronavirus, including SARS-CoV-2, worldwide.”
Like The Red Cross and Carter Blood Bank, blood banks have updated blood donation eligibility guidelines for those who have already received a Covid-19 vaccine.
People who received the Pfizer, Moderna, or Janssen/Johnson and Johnson vaccine (or AstraZeneca from countries where it has been approved) may donate blood without delay in most cases. Most blood banks request donors provide the data and name of the vaccine to verify eligibility.
All donors must be in good health and have a normal temperature on the day of donation. People who recovered from a previous Covid-19 infection can also donate 14 days after all symptoms have disappeared. Covid-19 survivors who received monoclonal antibody therapy may donate blood with site-specific restrictions.
Blood banks are still in search of plasma donations from Covid-19 survivors. Plasma contains antibodies which are proteins made by the body to help fight infection. Convalescent plasma from patients who recovered from Covid-19 may have life-saving antibodies. The FDA approved convalescent plasma use for hospitalized Covid-19 patients under an emergency use authorization.
Anyone interested in donating plasma after a Covid-19 infection may sign up here.
The Red Cross and Carter Blood Bank will not accept a donation from those currently quarantine by a health care provider after exposure to Covid-19. Donors should wait until fourteen days after exposure before scheduling.
All blood donations are tested for Covid-19 before being released into the nation’s blood pool.
As the world grinds through the long days of the pandemic, each one of us can do our part. A ten-minute blood donation can save lives.
Let’s make kindness more contagious than the pandemic.