WA Dept. of Health asking people to roll up their sleeves to end blood shortage

The Washington State Department of Health is trying to head off a blood shortage this summer by partnering with the Northwest Blood Coalition to urge more blood donations.
The Washington State Department of Health is trying to head off a blood shortage this summer by partnering with the Northwest Blood Coalition to urge more blood donations. Photo courtesy Shutterstock.com

Between Memorial Day and Labor Day – the traditional end of summer – demand for blood remains constant and transfusion needs increase, but donations go down

Brett Davis
The Center Square Washington

The Washington State Department of Health is trying to head off a blood shortage this summer by partnering with the Northwest Blood Coalition to urge more blood donations.

According to the Department of Health, between Memorial Day and Labor Day – the traditional end of summer – demand for blood remains constant and transfusion needs increase, but donations go down.

The Pacific Northwest Region of the Red Cross does not expect to have enough blood to meet patient needs this month without an increase in donations.

“As we approach the Labor Day holiday, eligible donors are encouraged to visit their blood centers and help stabilize our blood inventory this summer,” said Angel Montes, American Red Cross Northwest Region regional donor services executive, in a DOH news release last week. “Please make an appointment to ensure blood is available for patients in need.”

Wildfire smoke resulted in several canceled blood drives, exacerbating the problem, according to DOH.

“Summer is usually a slow time for blood donations,” explained DOH public information officer Roberto Bonaccorso in an email to The Center Square. “Schools are out, so fewer college students participate; people plan trips and other activities that take them away from regular donation appointments. This year is not out of the ordinary in that regard, but the heat and fires have made the shortages more pressing.”

The traditional summer slowdown in blood donations, however, is a far cry from the height of the COVID-19 pandemic that saw “a tremendous strain on the blood supply and the worst national blood shortage in over a decade,” according to a 2022 National Library of Medicine paper on lessons learned from the pandemic blood supply crisis.

“High schools and colleges are important sites of blood drives, but with nearly 2 years of virtual schooling, according to the Red Cross, there was a 62% drop in school blood drives during the pandemic,” the paper noted. “During the second half of the pandemic, particularly with the spikes of the omicron and delta variants, the rapid spread of infection and mandated postinfection quarantine led to a further strain on the available donor pool as well as staff shortages at blood donation centers and hospitals. This coincided with the reopening of many aspects of the healthcare system that were previously closed or limited, resulting in an increased number of elective surgeries and other procedures for which blood transfusion may be required.”

Donating blood is safe and can help save the lives of others, DOH stressed, noting that donations are crucial for people undergoing surgeries, blood disorder treatments and cancer care.

Most people who are at least 18 years old and weigh a minimum of 110 pounds can donate blood.

Visit these websites for more information on donating blood:

This report was first published by The Center Square Washington.


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