American Red Cross blood supply at ‘historic’ lows as winter approaches

Health

As people gather for holiday celebrations this season the American Red Cross — which provides 40% of the country’s blood — is facing historically low blood supply levels.

While the Red Cross consistently sees a drop in blood and platelet donations this time of year, the organization said if more donors don’t come forward to give blood, some patients requiring a transfusion may potentially face delays in care.

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“I’ve been with the Red Cross through periods of emergency blood shortage but I’ve never seen the word ‘historic’ used and that is concerning. The need is immediate and it is urgent,” Central Pa. Red Cross Executive Director, Laura Burke said.

In the Midstate, we’re not at that historic point yet, but we’re getting close. Officials say the problem is one of supply and demand along with the ongoing challenges of COVID-19. The Red Cross provides 40% of the country’s blood supply and replenishing that inventory is top priority because the need for blood never stops, pandemic or not.

“Patients can be deferred for procedures that they need and they’ll have to wait to receive that blood until it’s available. That’s why we need to give as urgently and as soon as possible to make sure we’re able to replenish those shelves in the hospital,” Burke said.

Donors are urged to schedule an appointment now by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org, or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). There is no donation waiting period for those who have received a flu shot or a Moderna, Pfizer, or Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine or booster as long as they are symptom-free.   

To encourage donors to help address the historically-low blood supply this holiday season, all who come to give Dec. 17 to Jan. 2, 2021, will receive an exclusive Red Cross long-sleeved T-shirt, while supplies last.

Blood drive safety 

Each Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows the highest standards of safety and infection control, and additional precautions  — including face masks for donors and staff, regardless of vaccination status — have been implemented to help protect the health of all those in attendance. Donors are asked to schedule an appointment prior to arriving at the drive. 

Save time during donation

Donors can also save up to 15 minutes at the blood drive by completing a RapidPass. With RapidPass, donors complete the pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of donation, or from a mobile device or computer. To complete a RapidPass, follow the instructions HERE or use the Red Cross Blood Donor App.

To donate blood, individuals need to bring a blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification that are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds, and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also must meet certain height and weight requirements.

Health insights for donors 

The Red Cross is screening all blood, platelet, and plasma donations from self-identified African-American donors for the sickle cell trait. This additional screening will provide black donors with an additional health insight and help the Red Cross identify compatible blood types more quickly to help patients with sickle cell disease. 

Blood transfusion of trait-negative blood is an essential treatment for those with sickle cell disease, and blood donations from individuals of the same race, ethnicity, and blood type have a unique ability to help patients fighting sickle cell disease.    

Donors can expect to receive sickle cell trait screening results, if applicable, within one to two weeks through the Red Cross Blood Donor App and the online donor portal HERE.  

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