COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) - A national blood shortage is putting a strain on America's already fragile healthcare system. Both the American Red Cross and Vitalant Blood Donation in Colorado are urging people to donate blood as soon as possible.
Vitalant, which has blood donation centers in Colorado and services about 900 hospitals across 28 states, has announced it currently has a historic, two-year low blood supply. Meanwhile, the Red Cross says it's facing its worst blood shortage in more than a decade.
“We're actually seeing type O blood at a two year low right now and a lot of other blood types at a two year low," said Brooke Way, communication manager for Vitalant. "We try to keep a four day supply of all types on our shelves, ready to go for patients in need and right now, we have less than half of that of many types of blood.”
Both nonprofits say the coronavirus pandemic has created massive challenges for public blood drives and has led to a decrease in donations. Vitalant says in December, blood donations fell short of the need by more than 4,500 donations and the trend has continued into January. The Red Cross reports a 10% overall decline in the number of people donating blood as well as ongoing blood drive cancellations and staffing limitations due to COVID-19.
This trend is causing doctors across America to make difficult decisions about who receives blood transfusions and who will need to wait until more products become available.
Vitalant supplies blood to 75 hospitals across Colorado, including Penrose-St. Francis in Colorado Springs.
"Every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood," said Jennifer Drennan, Laboratory Technical Specialist at Centura Health. "At Penrose Hospital and St. Francis Hospital, we transfuse thousands of blood products every year and rely heavily on the generosity of our donors. This constant need for blood can only be met by donors in our community, please find a local blood drive or bank and donate today."
"People should care about a nationwide blood shortage because patients truly depend on these transfusions to survive," said Way. "It is dire because we don't want frontline healthcare workers worrying about a shortage on top of everything else that's going on right now. We want to make sure surgeons have the blood they need for scheduled surgeries, and for trauma and emergency situations.”
Way goes on to say that the majority of the population is eligible to donate blood, but only 3 percent actually do. Vitalant is encouraging everyone to make an effort to donate in 2022.
Vitalant and the Red Cross are offering promotions to encourage donors to schedule appointments. Four donors who give to Vitalant in January will win $5,000 in prepaid gift cards. Those who give blood to the Red Cross in January will be entered for a chance to win a getaway to Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles, or a home theater package and a $500 gift card.
Vitalant has several donation centers in Colorado, including in Colorado Springs. To schedule a blood donation, click here.