Vitalant—the nation's largest nonprofit, independent blood collector—serving patients in 40 states, has declared a critical shortage of blood as supplies have been significantly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Shelter-in-place orders led to thousands of blood drives canceled across the country since early March, resulting in a loss of 150,000 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.
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.
Donors are strongly urged to give blood as soon as possible by going online to vitalant.org or calling 877-258-4825 (877-25-VITAL).
"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."
Every day, Vitalant must collect 5,000 blood donations to meet patients' transfusion needs. Every two seconds, someone needs blood. Vitalant urgently needs donors to make an appointment today to ensure a stable blood supply.
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 public responded when thousands of blood drives got canceled at the beginning of the pandemic," said Cliff Numark, Chief of Marketing. "We are in the aftermath and we need to let people know that without donating blood today, life could stop for hospital patients."
The U.S. Surgeon General and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) 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
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