A national blood shortage, an unintended consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, is affecting people with health problems and those experiencing medical emergencies across the United States.
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, the current nationwide blood shortage is comparable to the shortage during World War II (hopkinsmedicine.org).
Since the pandemic has been going on for almost two years, people are in danger of not just the virus, but now, not getting access to the lifesaving care they may need. According to Dr. Patricia Kopko, “We are currently experiencing the most severe blood shortage in 30 years” (health.ucsd.edu).
The rising COVID-19 cases across the country have impacted the blood supply at the Red Cross and at blood centers across the nation. According to a Los Angeles news station, “The Red Cross said it saw a 10 percent decline in the number of people donating blood since the beginning of the pandemic, with especially low donor turnout beginning when the delta variant began spreading in August” (ktla.com).
Kopka said, “A significant drop in donations during the pandemic, combined with staff limitations, has caused cancellations of planned blood drives” (health.ucsd.edu).
“Supplying 40 percent of the nation’s blood, the Red Cross has had to limit blood distributions to hospitals in recent weeks. In fact, on certain days, some hospitals may not receive as much as one-quarter of the blood products requested.” With blood drive cancellations, and the limiting factors Red Cross is able to take to preserve the amount of blood they have on-hand, it means there is less available supply for people in need (redcross.org).
According to The New York Times, “High school and college students typically account for a quarter of blood donations in the United States, but many school drives have been canceled because of the pandemic. There are also fewer workplace drives as more people work from home and coronavirus precautions restrict the size of public events” (nytimes.com).
Kopko stated, “High school students tend to be very healthy and enthusiastic about doing good. Thus, they tend to make excellent blood donors. High school blood drives are often the first place people donate blood. Introducing new donors into the system is very important. People who first donate at their high school, often become lifelong blood donors. The other message is that by donating one unit of blood, you can save up to three lives.”
Requirements to donate include being at least 17 years old and weighing at least 110 pounds. There are also wellness and drug rules in place to help prevent contamination in the donated blood supply (redcrossblood.org).
The Red Cross is in critical need of type O positive blood, the most common blood type with 38 percent of the population having it (redcross.org).
UC High’s Associated Student Body (ASB) put together a blood drive on February 9 with the goal of saving lives. Senior Amadu Tadesse said, of the blood drive on campus, “We met our goal of at least fifty signups, and this was our second drive of the school year so we smoothed out some of the bumps from last time.” Tadesse added, “It feels really good to help our community with this problem, especially since blood is such a useful and needed resource. It’s pretty cool that in the future there will probably be people I’ll meet for whom the blood we raised helped save their lives.”
According to the LifeStream Blood Bank, one in four people will need to receive a blood transfusion at some point in their life (lstream.org).