Vitalant: Local blood supply reaches critical low level

Published: May. 21, 2020 at 10:28 AM CDT
Email this link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

Blood donation is still considered an essential activity, but it appears the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly slowed donations.

Vitalant has declared a critical shortage of blood.

Officials say shelter-in-place orders led to more than 400 blood drives cancelled since early March in our region alone, resulting in a loss of more than 9,000 uncollected blood donations. That, coupled with a resumption of surgeries and other medical procedures as stay-at-home restrictions were lifted, has caused a 25% increase in the need for blood during the past several weeks.

Vitalant says all blood types are critically needed right now, with an especially high need for type O, A-negative and B-negative red blood cells. In addition, platelets are always needed by patients for cancer treatments, surgeries and emergencies. Because of its short shelf life—only 5 days—the supply of platelets must be continually replenished.

“We strive to maintain a 4-day supply of blood just to provide what patients need, and currently we’re at less than half that for certain blood types,” said Dr. Ralph Vassallo, Chief Medical Officer at Vitalant. “It’s absolutely vital—a matter of life or death for some—to have enough blood collected and readily available on hospital shelves when patients need it.”

Vitalant recently released its Because of You, Life Doesn’t Stop campaign, calling on all donors to take action now and give blood or convalescent plasma to meet immediate and ongoing needs.

Recovered COVID-19 patients have immune-boosting antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus in their plasma, which can be given to patients currently fighting COVID-19.

The U.S. Surgeon General and Federal Emergency Management Agency have designated blood donation as an essential activity, encouraging healthy and eligible donors to continue to donate even amidst COVID-19 response measures. From coast to coast, all Vitalant centers continue to deploy strict precautionary measures to ensure the safety of donors, patients and staff, including:

Taking donors’ temperatures upon check-in (staff self-monitor their temperatures)
Requiring face masks or cloth-based face coverings (donors and staff)
Disinfecting donor-touched and other high-touch areas often and after every donation
Ensuring social distancing to keep donors and staff safe.