World Blood Donor Day 2021: Impact of Covid-19 on blood donation

June 13, 2021 2:12 PM

By donating blood you can save someone's life. Blood donation stimulates Blood Cell Production. It helps you to complete your social responsibilities.

The novel coronavirus disease has disrupted blood transfusion services world-wide.

By Dr. Asha Ojha

World blood donor day takes place on 14th June each year. The aim is to raise global awareness of the need for safe blood and blood products for transfusion and of the critical contribution of voluntary ,unpaid donors make to national health systems. The day also provides an opportunity to call to action to governments and national health authorities to provide adequate resources and put into place systems and infrastructures to increase the collection of blood from voluntary, non-remunerated blood donors.

Safe blood and blood products and their transfusion are a critical aspect of care and public health. They save millions of lives, improve health and quality of many patients every day. The need for blood is universal, but access to blood for all those who need it is not. Blood shortages are particularly acute in developing countries.

Through the covid-19 pandemic, the Blood Banks across the globe need the help of blood donors including blood drives to meet the needs of patient care.

This year’s slogan, “Give blood and keep the world-beating,” aims to raise awareness during a time of crisis, reaching out to all eligible donors to contribute towards maintaining supplies of safe blood.

By donating blood you can save someone’s life. Blood donation stimulates Blood Cell Production. It helps you to complete your social responsibilities.

As part of our nation’s critical infrastructure, healthy individuals can still donate in areas that have issued shelter in place declarations or are operating under a phased reopening plan. All Blood banks follow the highest standards of safety and infection control, and voluntary donors are the only source of blood for those in need. As hospitals resume surgical procedures and patient treatments that were temporarily paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an acute, constant shortage of blood, preventing procedures for those in need of surgeries, hence communities are urged to go out and donate blood.

Blood banks across India are following NBTC guidelines for blood donation eligibility.

Blood can be safely donated after a period of 3 months if the criteria for donation are fulfilled. This time is required to replenish the stores in our body. This extraordinary effort during a time of unprecedented crisis highlights the crucial role of well –organized, committed voluntary, non -remunerated blood donors in ensuring safe and sufficient blood supply during normal and emergency times.

With the ongoing covid -19 pandemic, it is prudent to provide the blood bank with details of vaccine while donating blood. The deferral period for blood donors is 14 days after receiving each / any dose of the currently available covid -19 vaccines in the country subject to the condition that the donor confirms to the other norms for blood donation.

Based on the history of blood donor to COVID-19 infection, individuals should be deferred from donating blood for 28 days from day of discharge/ isolation and complete recovery from the disease including radiological and virological clearance.

“Give blood and keep the world-beating.”

This message highlights the essential contribution blood donors make to keeping the world pulsating by saving lives and improving other’s health.

Impact on blood donation

The novel coronavirus disease has disrupted blood transfusion services world-wide. Despite blood transfusion services taking several precautionary measures to minimize the risks of COVID-19 during blood donations, donors became anxious regarding the risk of the COVID-19 infection during the donation and the blood transfusion services were facing the inevitable hazard of blood shortage.

The blood donation activities were thought to be against the social distancing protocols. As all corporate and educational institutes were closed, the Blood Transfusion Services (BTS) were having a difficult time arranging the outdoor blood drives.

Diminished donor inflow, lack of uniform donor selection criteria during the initial period, fear of COVID-19 spread to blood donors and staff personnel, shortage of available blood units, staff personnel transportation, handling of medical records, and concerns about transfusion-transmitted COVID-19 were the major challenges faced in blood centres. Personal invitation of donors, public announcements, and in-house donation drives were implemented to improve donor inflow. National guidelines were established. Restricted donor entry, stringent donor selection, and adequate sanitization strategies were the key steps adopted to ensure the safety of donors and staff. Staff duty pattern was allocated on a rotation basis. The novel standard operating procedures was developed and implemented for handling covid -19 positive or suspected blood samples.

The donor appointment letter- A donor appointment letter was prepared as per the state blood transfusion council suggestions. The letter mentioned the donor name and expected date and time of blood donation and its scanned copy was sent to all the donors via WhatsApp. The letter was printed on the official BTS letterhead and was signed and stamped.

Education for BTS staff members- The BTS staff was educated on the current COVID-19 crisis and important prevention measures, such as hand hygiene, cough etiquette, social distancing, etc. The importance of Universal Precautions and Good Laboratory Practices was re-emphasized. Challenging differentiation between COVID-19 carriers and healthy blood donors. The BTS must rely on the donor deferral policy to minimize the risk of potentially infected donors from entering the blood supply chain.

Implementation of a supplementary donor health questionnaire- A modified donor health questionnaire supplement was implemented following the guidelines of the apex national body of blood transfusion, the National Blood Transfusion Council (NBTC). The addendum included questions regarding donors/close contacts travel and contact history with a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 and symptoms of active infection.

Precaution by the BTS staff at the outdoor drives and in-house donations- The use of alcohol-based-hand-sanitizers by donors at a convenient area, such as the reception and refreshment areas, was ensured for hand hygiene. Personal protective equipment, including the N95 mask, hand gloves, face shields, was made mandatory for the BTS staff in the donation premises.

Social distancing is maintained while blood donations. Cleaning measures taken in the donation premises .

The confidence building in the blood donors and handling of the logistic issues were the most important factors for the efficient blood and blood product inventory management. In times of pandemic, implementations of measures that ensure the safety of the blood donors and BTS staff is the responsibility and social obligation of the BTS.

To date, SARS-CoV-2 infection testing in blood donors has not been recommended by the NBTC. At the time of donation, the blood donors are advised and encouraged to inform the BTS in case of COVID-19 diagnosis and symptoms of COVID-19.

Risk of COVID-19 by blood transfusion- Respiratory viruses, such as coronaviruses, are not ordinarily known to be transmitted by blood transfusion.

Preparedness plan for future epidemics-

Even after overcoming COVID-19, the situation may never return to what it was previous to the pandemic and the BTS may have to learn to work with these ‘new normal’ conditions. The BTS may inculcate this extra cautiousness in their routine and this may also have a positive impact on the donor population.

( The author is Blood Bank Officer, Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre. The article is for informational purposes only. Please consult health experts and medical professionals before starting any therapy or medication. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)

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