By Chadwick Dolgos
Nearly a year into the global pandemic, COVID-19 has impacted almost every aspect of life. From closing down businesses to preventing people from seeing their families for the holidays, the novel coronavirus has been a major interruption.
With an increase in blood needed coupled with a decrease in blood donated, blood banks are working tirelessly to collect blood, platelet, and convalescent plasma donations in order to treat COVID-19 patients.
Vitalent, a nonprofit organization that collects blood from volunteer donors, strives to collect more than 5,500 blood and platelet donations a day because a blood transfusion is needed on average every two seconds in the U.S. However, the pandemic has put a strain on the current blood supply.
Blood and platelet donations are urgently needed because donations are being distributed to hospitals at a faster rate than they are being received.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Vitalent has been forced to cancel over 14,600 blood drives, accounting for more than 364,000 uncollected donations. Additionally, donations have further declined due to the cold and flu season, winter storms, and the recent holidays.
The demand for convalescent plasma has also significantly increased as a direct result of the ongoing pandemic. Nearly one in every four patients hospitalized with COVID-19 require convalescent plasma treatment, a therapy that uses blood from individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 to treat patients currently suffering from severe cases.
Having never been diagnosed with COVID-19 does not disqualify one’s ability to help. When donating blood, donors are informed of their antibody status. If positive, convalescent plasma can be produced from the blood donation. Testing positive for antibodies allows donors to donate convalescent plasma on a recurring basis.
Those who have received a COVID-19 vaccine, however, have been deferred from donating convalescent plasma by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA made this decision because of the uncertainty surrounding the immune response produced by the vaccines.
In order for vaccine recipients to be eligible, the FDA requires donors to have received a vaccination after becoming diagnosed with COVID-19 and to be six months removed from experiencing COVID-related symptoms.
There currently is no deferral or waiting period for blood and platelet donations from donors who have been vaccinated, as long as they meet all of the general eligibility requirements for blood donations.
One donation can save as many as three lives, according to Vitalent.
Because patients continue to depend on blood transfusions daily, both FEMA and the U.S. Surgeon General have declared blood drives as an essential activity during the pandemic.
YOU CAN HELP
Locally, Vitalent will be partnering with Dr. Claudia Wendel’s practice, Eyegotcha, to host a blood drive in Stowe Township from noon to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 10. The drive will take place at 808 Broadway Ave.
Appointments are recommended. To schedule an appointment, go to vitalent.org or call (412) 209-7000.
All Vitalent blood drives and donation centers follow a strict protocol in an effort to ensure the safety of their donors, patients and staff. COVID-19 protocols include social-distancing, temperature checks, face mask requirements, as well as other precautions.
Vitalent will continue to follow COVID-19 protocols, even as more people become vaccinated, as an additional safety measure.