The American Red Cross has declared a state of emergency due to a shortage of blood in the country, as the number of blood donations has reached a historic low in the last 20 years.
The number of people donating blood through the American Red Cross, which provides about 40% of the country’s blood and blood components, has decreased by about 40% over the past two decades, the agency said in a press release.
Disruptions in the blood donation process between Christmas and New Year’s led the organization to anticipate a deficit of nearly 7,000 blood supplies.
„Hospitals have a greater need for blood than we can currently provide with the current donation levels, and this is really a long-term problem. To put the numbers into perspective, we need an additional 8,000 donations each week in January to meet the current hospital demand,“ said Dr. Eric Gehrie, Medical Director at the American Red Cross.
According to data from the American Blood Centers, blood supply at 17 community blood donation centers is critically low (supply for a day or less).
„Additional challenges lie ahead as winter weather and seasonal respiratory illnesses such as the flu and COVID-19 could impact future donor participation and exacerbate the serious blood supply situation the country is currently facing,“ the press release said.
Blood supply does not meet the demand in the country, as only 3% of adults in the United States donate blood annually.
Several factors have contributed to lower donations, including the nature of remote work after COVID-19, which made conducting blood donation drives a challenge. Willing donors are deferred at certain times due to factors such as low iron or hemoglobin levels, or travel restrictions. However, these donors may not realize that they could donate at a later date, Dr. Gehrie said.
„One of the most stressful situations for a doctor is to have a hospital full of patients and an empty refrigerator without blood products. In our country, life-saving blood is needed every two seconds – and its availability can mean the difference between life and death,“ said Dr. Pampee Young, Chief Medical Officer at the Red Cross.
Who can donate blood?
„People who are 17 years old in most states (16 years old with parental consent, if legally allowed), weigh at least 110 pounds, and are generally in good health may be able to donate blood,“ the agency said.
To ensure the safety of donors, the Red Cross checks hemoglobin levels before blood collection. Women must have a hemoglobin level of at least 12.5 g/dl and men must have a hemoglobin level of at least 13.0 g/dl. A donor’s hemoglobin level should not be higher than 20.0 g/dl.
A person can donate blood every 56 days, up to six times a year. If you want to donate blood, you will need a blood donor card, a driver’s license, or two other forms of identification.