Being in the midst of any pandemic is a scary thing to go through and the Covid 19 pandemic is no different. There are multiple measures being under taken to curb the spreading of the SARS-CoV-2, such as social distancing, wearing masks, use of hand sanitizers etc. However, one of the important things that people don’t know is the importance of donating blood in pandemic and the safety measures required. It is absolutely vital that people continue to donate blood; especially in a pandemic.
The measures taken to prevent the spread of this virus have affected all the people globally in the way how they live and function with the restrictions placed by the lockdowns.
The main purpose of lockdowns is to limit the SARS-CoV-2 virus transmission and to cut down on the number of deaths from covid infection and also to prevent the overloading and strain in hospitals; especially in intensive care units. There is always a drastic drop in blood donations in a lockdown phase.
Even with the lockdown in place, it is important for essential workers, such as doctors, nurses, public service workers and people responsible for the functioning of the country to leave their homes and get to work safely. Other than these people, the people who need more safety while leaving their home are the people who donate blood in a pandemic.
It is important for any country to have a steady blood supply to help people/patients who are in a critical condition. According to NHLBI, blood transfusions are mandatory if the patient has excessive blood loss during a surgery or from any injury.(1) Donated blood also is important for those individuals whose bodies are unable to produce blood properly.
Depending on the cause of blood transfusion, a person can donate four different types of blood products to be transfused that include: red blood cells, whole blood, plasma and platelets.(1)
Why Blood Donation In Pandemic Is Important? And Why The Blood Reserves Deplete In A Pandemic?(1)
It is important to note that blood cannot be produced in a lab and most of the products that are present in a blood transfusion come from people who have donated blood.(1)
Not many understand the importance of blood transfusions as being THE lifesaving procedures that happen in every hospital, everyday; more so if there is a pandemic going on. In America, there are more than 13.2 million blood donors who are the unacknowledged heroes for saving people’s life in the country by contributing to the blood supply.(2) According to the FDA, every 2 seconds there is a need for a blood transfusion in a patient.(3)
If there is no easy access to blood supply, then many people would die as a result of not being able to undergo blood transfusion, which is a lifesaving procedure as mentioned before.
However, during a pandemic, the fear spreads more than the actual virus and people are scared to donate blood and the supply gets drastically reduced, such as can be seen in the COVID-19 pandemic. The supply and demand is the determining factor for the country’s blood reserves, as is the same with other resources. If there is a significant percentage of illness or accident in a small place, then it causes blood loss in many patients thus depleting the blood reserves as the demand for it increases.
On the other hand, the less number of people donating blood in a pandemic puts a strain on the blood reserves resulting in a situation where the blood supply cannot meet the demand.
Due to the restrictions placed on the physical movements in the covid 19 pandemic, there is a severe drop in blood supply in the U.S. because of the drastic reduction in blood donations and cancellation of blood drives.
Dr. Marks describes blood donors as “part of our critical infrastructure industries.” Hence, even during a pandemic and lockdown, it is extremely important that people donate blood as they did in pre-pandemic times. For this to happen, the local governments should encourage people for blood donation and assure them that they are undertaking all the safety measures and to help them donate blood in a safe manner that will not substantially increase the risk of their transmitting or getting SARS-CoV-2.
To get to the important point, the benefits and the importance of donating blood in a pandemic, no matter how serious it is, definitely outweighs any negative incidents occurring as a result of the increased number of people stepping out of their homes to donate blood.
The Safety Measures of Donating Blood in a Pandemic
Pandemic or no pandemic, it is crucial to follow precautionary/safety measures to donate blood safely.
In a pandemic, people who are travelling from their homes should strictly adhere to physical distancing like standing 6 feet apart from other people; along with wearing masks, frequent hand washing and not touching your face.(4) These measures decrease the chances of spreading or catching the covid virus.
According to Dr. Marks, blood donation centers are ideally situated to manage the blood donations safely every time people donate blood; especially during a pandemic, as these blood donation centers are extremely skilled in infection control measures.(5)
The blood donation centers always undertake safety measures that prevent donors or any staff members who are unwell from traveling to the donor site. Along with the taking additional social distancing measures, this will ensure good safety for blood donors to donate blood without any fear.
People should be educated that DONATING BLOOD IS SAFE and requires very little time. Anyone interested in blood donation should make an appointment at the center beforehand to reduce the time it takes for blood donation. The blood donation centers can call on the donor’s mobile phone to inform them when they are ready for them to come in for donating blood.
The CDC Safety Guidelines for Blood Donation in Pandemic(6)
The CDC has issued safety guidelines for blood and plasma collection centers regarding their operation in a pandemic and they consist of:
- Everyone should follow hand hygiene practices.
- It is important to maintain cough etiquette and good respiratory hygiene.
- Disinfection and cleaning any surfaces daily is important.
- It is mandatory to place seats 6 feet apart in collection and waiting areas of these centers.
- The centers should ensure that all their staff is updated of the latest safety procedures with regards to the pandemic.
- It is important to ensure that the staff or the workers from the donation centers do not come to work if they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.(7)