For the first time, US faces a blood shortage crisis
The American Red Cross has declared, for the first time, a national blood crisis.
Amid National Blood Donor Month, the U.S. is facing its worst blood shortage in over a decade, according to a press release.
Meanwhile, the demand for blood from hospitals and surgery centers is “as high as it’s ever been,” Baia Lasky, MD, the medical director of the American Red Cross, told Healio.
Due to the blood supply shortage, hospitals may receive 25% less blood stock than they need, she said.
There has been a 10% decline in the number of blood donations since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the release. Initially, the Red Cross announced a national emergency blood shortage amidst the persistent decline in blood donations, Healio previously reported in October. Since then, the shortage has continued to worsen, forcing the Red Cross to declare a blood crisis.
“We try to be as transparent as possible with how much the hospitals are going to get, and it's really up to them how they use it,” Lasky said. “We know that hospitals are having to modify their surgery schedules to ensure that those who need the blood have it available, but the reality is there are a lot of unanticipated needs.”
These needs can range from trauma and burn injuries to cardiac surgeries, organ transplants, cancer treatments, labor and delivery and blood disorders; 40% of the U.S. blood supply comes from the Red Cross, according to the release.
“These are ongoing needs that hospitals and patients have. A shortage really impacts physicians’ ability to properly treat their patients,” Lasky added.
SARS-CoV-2 exposure concerns
The surge in COVID-19 cases may have contributed to the decline in blood donations. However, a person’s exposure risk during a donation is low, as the Red Cross has implemented as many mitigation measures as possible, according to Lasky.
Also, there is no deferral period for donating blood after a COVID-19 vaccination or booster. If they are feeling healthy, Lasky said that prospective donors can make a blood donation any time following their vaccination. Individuals who had or were exposed to SARS-CoV-2 are asked to wait 14 days after their symptoms have resolved or exposure before donating blood.
“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,” Pampee Young, MD, PhD, the chief medical officer of the American Red Cross, said in the release.
However, in addition to the blood shortage and surging COVID-19 cases, the Red Cross is grappling with biomedical and blood collection staff shortages, which has further stressed blood recovery efforts. Blood drives and appointments have been canceled or rescheduled due to the staff shortages. In the event of a cancellation, prospective donors are strongly encouraged to reschedule their donation appointments.
“[A cancellation] does not mean that we don't need the blood anymore,” Lasky said.
During the emergency shortage, the Red Cross asked that individuals make blood donation a part of their health care routine. Considering the crisis, physicians may be able to advocate for blood donations directly to patients.
“It would be helpful for physicians to create a culture of donation and really encourage donation to become a part of what people do regularly, because they may need a blood transfusion in their lifetimes,” Lasky said.
Emergency blood shortage – donor turnout reaches lowest levels of the year amid delta variant outbreak. https://www.redcross.org/about-us/news-and-events/press-release/2021/emergency-blood-shortage-donor-turnout-reaches-lowest-levels.html. Published Sept. 27, 2021. Accessed Oct. 1, 2021.
Red Cross declares first-ever blood crisis amid omicron surge. https://www.redcross.org/about-us/news-and-events/press-release/2022/blood-donors-needed-now-as-omicron-intensifies.html. Published Jan. 11, 2022. Accessed Jan. 12, 2022.