The American Red Cross warned this week that it is facing a “national blood crisis.”
The organization said its “worst blood shortage in over a decade” is “posing a concerning risk to patient care” and that doctors have been “forced to make difficult decisions about who receives blood transfusions and who will need to wait until more products become available. Blood and platelet donations are critically needed to help prevent further delays in vital medical treatments.”
The contributing factors to the crisis include a 10% decline in overall blood donor turnout since March 2020, a 62% drop in college and high school blood drives due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ongoing blood drive cancellations because of illness, staffing limitations and weather-related closures and a surge of COVID-19 cases and an active flu season that “may compound the already bad situation.”
“At a time when many businesses and organizations across the country are experiencing pandemic challenges, the Red Cross is no different. We are all learning how to live in this new environment, how we spend our time, where we work, how we give back, how we make a difference in the lives of others – donating blood must continue to be part of it,” the Red Cross wrote.
Officials say Minnesota’s blood bank donations are at a 10-year low and regional blood donations are down 10%, according to Red Cross spokeswoman Tonia Teasley.
Minnesota Public Radio News reported Memorial Blood Centers’ Dr. Jed Gorlin pointed out that car accidents and violence are also factors in the recent shortage in the state.
“We have had more penetrating trauma, gunshot wounds and knife wounds, as of the end of August than we did in all of 2019,” he said. “So, sadly this is not just a problem of decreased donations. This is also increased usage.”
“While some types of medical care can wait, others can’t,” Dr. Pampee Young, chief medical officer of the Red Cross, said in a statement “Hospitals are still seeing accident victims, cancer patients, those with blood disorders like sickle cell disease, and individuals who are seriously ill who all need blood transfusions to live even as omicron cases surge across the country. We’re doing everything we can to increase blood donations to ensure every patient can receive medical treatments without delay, but we cannot do it without more donors. We need the help of the American people.”
The Red Cross – which supplies 40% of the nation’s blood supply – has had to limit blood product distributions to hospitals as a result of the shortage, and some hospitals may not receive one in four blood products they need.
The organization said that there has been less than a one-day supply of critical blood types in recent weeks.
January is National Blood Donor Month and the Red Cross, America’s Blood Centers and AABB cautioned that if the nation’s blood supply does not stabilize soon, “life-saving blood may not be available for some patients when it is needed.”
Blood can take up to three days to be tested, processed and made available for patients.
More than 16 million units of blood and blood products are transfused annually with more than 45,000 units needed daily.
Individuals who have received a COVID-19 vaccine currently authorized for emergency use in the U.S. are able to donate blood and platelets as long as they are symptom-free and feeling well at the time of donation.
Those interested can find AABB at www.aabb.org or call 1-301-907-6977, find America’s Blood Centers at www.americasblood.org or call 1-202-393-5725 and find the Red Cross at www.RedCrossBlood.org or call 1-800-RED-CROSS.
Donors of all blood types – especially type O − are urged to make an appointment now to give in the weeks ahead.
Only an estimated 38% of the U.S. population is eligible to donate blood at any given time. However, less than 10% of that eligible population actually donates each year.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.