Since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, there has been a 10% decline in the number of people who were donating blood to the Red Cross, foreshadowing the Red Cross announcement in January that they were experiencing a major blood donation shortage for the first time.
Since December 31, 1969, the month of January has been called “National Blood Donor Month.” Unfortunately for the Red Cross, this celebratory month has coincided with a major blood donations shortage.
On January 11, 2022, the American Red Cross — a nonprofit humanitarian aid organization — announced that they were experiencing a major blood donation shortage for the first time, caused primarily by the inability to donate blood throughout the pandemic.
Since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, there has been a 10% decline in the number of people who were donating blood to the Red Cross, foreshadowing the Red Cross announcement in January. But the pandemic’s difficulties have been exacerbated by the fact that blood donations traditionally decrease during winter due to seasonal illnesses. Now, the seasonal shortage combined with pandemic-damaged immune systems has decreased the number of healthy donors.
The pandemic has also caused emergency closings all over the country, and educational facilities like schools and universities have been hit hard by these closings. Blood drives traditionally take place at facilities like these, so the pandemic-induced closures have also contributed to the national blood shortage.
Besides the typical winter shortage and the onslaught of COVID-19, there may be another cause for the national blood shortage: homophobia. Currently, the FDA says that men who are sexually active with other men must abstain for at least 90 days before being allowed to donate blood, rationalizing this policy by pointing out the threat of spreading infections like HIV. According to the Williams Institute, a think tank at UCLA Law, the total annual blood supply would increase by 345,400 to 615,300 pints each year. Calls abound for weakened restrictions on blood donation, especially from LGBT advocacy groups like GLAAD.
The crisis extends to all blood types. Hospitals nationwide need blood on a daily basis, and the Red Cross supplies 40% of the United States’s blood on its own. Due to this shortage, hospitals are receiving as little as one-fourth of the blood they need daily.
With the Red Cross club helping spread awareness to this issue every day at lunch, the blood shortage hasn’t gone unnoticed at High School North. Earlier in the school year, the Red Cross Club had set up a stand in the main hallway during lunch, passing around flyers while disseminating information about the Red Cross crisis and how students can help.
The national blood shortage may stem from a multitude of reasons. But one thing is clear: without blood donations, the future of patient care across the country is at risk.
Picture Source: Red Cross