Every January, we celebrate Blood Donor Month by encouraging people in our community to consider donating blood if they’re able to do so. It’s always an important cause — blood and plasma donations help patients in need with treatments related to cancer, trauma, sickle cell, chronic diseases, and more. But in 2021, blood donations might be more important than ever before. Here’s why.
Blood Shortages Have Arisen During the Pandemic
Since the pandemic began, the American Red Cross has reported “severe” shortages in its supply of donated blood. And according to data from America’s Blood Centers, two of the seven blood centers in the East Region, which includes Maryland, have a blood supply that can only last for one day or less.
Shortages in the supply are largely due to the fact that schools, colleges, places of worship, and other locations that traditionally yield large volumes of people willing to donate are closed or operating at a limited capacity. Regardless of the reason, however, the message from the American Red Cross is clear that more blood donations are required to keep up with America’s needs.
There Is No Substitute for Donated Blood
For as far as modern medicine has come, there is still no true substitute for blood for a patient in need. There are certainly still scientists hard at work trying to come up with alternatives to blood transfusions, but that’s something that may or may not come to fruition in the future. In the meantime, the reality is this: When someone needs blood for treatment, a real blood donor is needed.
Plasma from Those Who’ve Had COVID May Help Treat Those Battling the Virus
Although widely available vaccines designed to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 will soon be available, treatment options for those who are made severely ill by the virus are still relatively limited. One treatment option available in some circumstances, however, is the infusion of plasma from people who have already had COVID-19. This plasma contains antibodies that were produced by the immune system to may be able to help others fight off the disease.
Is Giving Blood Safe During the Pandemic?
The short answer: yes. The American Red Cross has taken special precautions to protect its employees, volunteers, and those who are generous enough to donate blood during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are just a few of the enhanced safety protocols the American Red Cross is currently following:
- Temperature checks of donors and staff members before entering a blood drive or donation center
- Following social-distancing guidelines between donors
- Sanitization of blood-donation areas between donors
- Blankets typically used by platelet and Power Red donors are laundered after each use
- Donors and staff members are required to wear a mask or face covering
- Providing hand sanitizer and gloves before entering and throughout the donation experience
You can learn more about the Red Cross’ safety protocols on its official website, and you can call 1-800-733-2767 if you have any questions.
If you’re ready to help in this time of need by giving blood, visit the American Red Cross website for a schedule of upcoming events. All blood drives currently require pre-registration (i.e., no walk-in donations), so be sure to call ahead or sign up online early — and thank you for giving back to your community!