(CMC) — The director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Dr Carissa Etienne, on Monday urged countries to replenish depleted blood supplies by taking the donation process to potential donors through mobile blood drives, by expanding donation hours and by making sure safety measures protect both donors and blood workers from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
In a message marking World Blood Donor Day, the Dominican-born PAHO official appealed to young people to continue their efforts to “maintain blood services despite the obstacles that COVID-19 has thrown in the way of donation”.
“Donate often, we need you,” she said during her virtual remark, pointing out that young people have been at the forefront of blood donation at a time when it has been difficult to maintain supplies.
“We have continued to need blood and blood products throughout this pandemic. But the very necessary public health measures taken to prevent infections have hindered donations. People following shelter-at-home measures have been unable to donate.
“Others who would like to donate have been concerned about getting infected by COVID-19 when going to blood donation facilities. In some countries, blood donations have declined by more than 40 percent,” Dr Etienne added.
PAHO said youth donors are the focus of this year’s World Blood Donor Day, and the 2021 slogan is “Give blood, keep the world beating”.
PAHO’s regional advisor on blood services, Mauricio Beltrán Durán, said that during the pandemic, the blood services that have been most resilient are those that rely more heavily on unpaid, voluntary blood donation rather than on donation through request of the relatives of patients who need transfusions.
“Unpaid, voluntary donation is the most reliable source of blood supply. We must encourage blood services to shift toward relying on this kind of blood donation,” he said, explaining that reduced blood donation can put people who need blood and blood products at risk, including those with cancers and women who haemorrhage after childbirth.
At the same time, demand for blood is now increasing as surgeries and other health services that were postponed because of the pandemic are being offered again. “With the reopening of medical services, the need for blood and blood products is only growing more urgent,” he said.
Throughout the pandemic, PAHO said it has collaborated with countries to ensure safe blood supply. PAHO/WHO has generated guidelines for safe blood donation during the pandemic and provided recommendations for mitigating the decline in availability of blood and blood products.
According to the latest available data published by PAHO in 2017, more than 10.5 million units of blood were collected, through 1,800 blood donation centres in 36 countries and territories of the Americas.