The American Red Cross is facing a national blood crisis – its worst blood shortage in more than a decade. Dangerously low blood supply levels are posing a concerning risk to patient care and forcing doctors to make difficult decisions about who receives blood transfusions and who will need to wait until more products become available.

Blood and platelets donations are critically needed to help prevent further delays in vital medical treatments, and donors of all blood types – especially type O − are urged to make an appointment now to give in the weeks ahead.

In recent weeks, the Red Cross had less than a one-day supply of critical blood types and has had to limit blood product distributions to hospitals. At times, as much as one-quarter of hospital blood needs are not being met.

Pandemic challenges

National blood crisis

Blood and platelets donations are critically needed to help prevent further delays in vital medical treatments.

The Red Cross continues to confront relentless challenges due to COVID-19, including about a 10% overall decline in the number of people donating blood as well as ongoing blood drive cancellations and staffing limitations. Additionally, the pandemic has contributed to a 62% drop in blood drives at schools and colleges.

“Winter weather across the country and the recent surge of COVID-19 cases are compounding the already-dire situation facing the blood supply,” said Dr. Baia Lasky, medical director for the Red Cross. “Please, if you are eligible, make an appointment to give blood or platelets in the days and weeks ahead to ensure no patient is forced to wait for critical care.”

Make an appointment to give blood or platelets as soon as possible by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

The Red Cross and the NFL are partnering this January, during National Blood Donor Month, to urge individuals to give blood or platelets and help tackle the national blood shortage. Those who come to give blood, platelets or plasma in January will automatically be entered for a chance to win a getaway to Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles. As an extra thank-you from the Red Cross, those who come to donate will also be automatically entered to win a home theater package and a $500 e-gift card. Terms apply; visit RedCrossBlood.org/SuperBowl for more information.

Who donations help

Kala Breder knows all too well how dire not having blood available can be. In July 2020, hours after the birth of her son by emergency Cesarean section, Breder developed a complication and began bleeding uncontrollably. As doctors fought to save her life, they exhausted the entire blood supply at the hospital as well as all available blood within a 45-mile radius. Ultimately, she was flown to another hospital because there wasn’t enough blood locally.

Breder credits the 58 different blood products she received with helping save her life. “Without one of those, I probably wouldn’t be here,” she said. “I needed every last unit.”

Volunteers needed

In addition to blood donors, the Red Cross also needs the help of volunteers to support critical blood collections across the country. Blood drive volunteers play an important role by greeting, registering, answering questions and providing information to blood donors throughout the donation process. Blood transportation specialists – another volunteer opportunity − provide a critical link between blood donors and blood recipients by delivering blood to hospitals in communities across the country. To volunteer to support Red Cross blood collections, visit redcross.org/volunteertoday.

Blood drive safety

Each Red Cross blood drive and donation center follows the highest standards of safety and infection control, and additional precautions – including face masks for donors and staff, regardless of vaccination status – have been implemented to help protect the health of all those in attendance. Donors are asked to schedule an appointment prior to arriving at the drive.

Save time during donation

Donors can also save up to 15 minutes at the blood drive by completing a RapidPass®. With RapidPass®, donors complete the pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of donation, from a mobile device or computer. To complete a RapidPass®, follow the instructions at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass or use the Red Cross Blood Donor App.

To donate blood, individuals need to bring a blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification that are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also must meet certain height and weight requirements.

Health insights for donors

At a time when health information has never been more important, the Red Cross is screening all blood, platelet and plasma donations from self-identified African American donors for the sickle cell trait. This additional screening will provide Black donors with an additional health insight and help the Red Cross identify compatible blood types more quickly to help patients with sickle cell disease who require trait-negative blood. Blood transfusion is an essential treatment for those with sickle cell disease, and blood donations from individuals of the same race, ethnicity and blood type have a unique ability to help patients fighting sickle cell disease.

Donors can expect to receive sickle cell trait screening results, if applicable, within one to two weeks through the Red Cross Blood Donor App and the online donor portal at RedCrossBlood.org.

About the American Red Cross

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides comfort to victims of disasters; supplies about 40% of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; distributes international humanitarian aid; and supports Veterans, military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to deliver its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

By Ashley Henyan is communications director for the American Red Cross National Capital & Greater Chesapeake Region

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Published on Jan. 17, 2022

Estimated reading time is 5 min.

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8 Comments

  1. David N Andrews January 20, 2022 at 7:59 pm

    I was on finasteride for about 10 years and at the advise of my Urologist, was taken off of this medication on January 6, 2022. How long should I wait before I can again donate? I donated blood for many years prior to taking finasteride.

  2. Laura Marie Hancock January 20, 2022 at 6:51 pm

    I would love to donate, but not sure I can with the medication I take. I am not vaxed and am pretty healthy for a 61 year old female. How can we find out if we are able to donate on certain meds. I can do without for the most part, They are not life threatening if I quit for a few days or so.

  3. Paul Pirlot January 20, 2022 at 3:48 pm

    I am on a medication (finasteride) that can be detrimental to pregnant women. When I suggested my donation be labeled at to not provide to someone who is pregnant I was told it would be impractical. Why? I would think a pregnant woman would be a very small percentage of those needing a transfusion. It should be a simple matter to affix a label to a unit of blood. Over a period of 40 years I have donated approximately ten gallons and am disappointed to be excluded from donating again.

  4. Barry Land January 20, 2022 at 3:47 pm

    I would keep donating blood and platelets except I can’t breathe very well while donating with a mask on. I will continue once the mask mandate is lifted. Also the Red Cross used to give T shirts away pretty often. Not so much in recent years. I like to wear my “blood” T Shirts. Not too much to ask, I think.

  5. Jeff Steele January 20, 2022 at 10:22 am

    When I was a younger man serving in the military, I used to give blood every 6 or 9 weeks (what ever the period was one had to wait to donate again). I did this while stationed in Germany from 85-87 when they had the mad cow disease break out in England, I believe it was. Anyway, The commissary evidently was selling beef that was contaminated and it had to be recalled. After that, the powers to be banned individuals from giving blood. The Red Cross has not allowed me to give blood for 34 years now. You would think, with the shortage of blood, that this ban would be reviewed to see if it is still necessary. There are a lot of people who would probably donate blood if this ban was not in effect. I would certainly go back to donating blood. After a few years I thought this ban was stupid and still do.

    [Editor: The FDA removed the ban one year ago: https://news.va.gov/83743/fda-lifts-ban-european-blood-donations/ ]

  6. Rudi Bendig January 19, 2022 at 10:30 pm

    I am 61 in great health no Covid vaxed and boosted A- blood type but I was told once that I could not give blood any more after many years of giving, because I served in Germany from 1981 to 1983. They said mad cow was going around at that time? Is that true and is there a year total where that would be a non issue?

    [Editor: FDA lifted the ban one year ago: https://news.va.gov/83743/fda-lifts-ban-european-blood-donations/ ]

  7. Andy Kilgore January 19, 2022 at 8:41 pm

    A lot of veterns cannot give blood because of being stationed in Europe in the 80s and 90s. Can this restriction be lifted? I would love to give blood…….but because of where I served I am barred from giving it. I used to be able to give platlets, but now I’m barred from that also. Please look to see if some of these limitations could be lifted.

    [Editor: The FDA lifted the ban one year ago: https://news.va.gov/83743/fda-lifts-ban-european-blood-donations/ ]

  8. Garry McGrath January 19, 2022 at 5:55 pm

    I have hemochromatosis. Phlebotomy is a way of life for me and I would love to donate. My problem is for some reason I have been classified a therapeutic donor, I need a prescription to donate (which is OK), and I have to drive 30 miles all the way across Jacksonville to the only place that accepts therapeutic donations. My blood has been determined to be as good as anyone’s and safe for donation. If I can donate, it’s a win win situation for me and for someone else. One Blood, which is the outfit that takes donations around here, has made if very difficult for me to be a donor. Getting an appointment is always an issues, and of course, there’s that long drive. I wish I could go to my local blood bank, or walk into a blood mobile and donate. People with hemochromatosis if they are otherwise healthy, is a great source of blood. I wonder how many have become disgusted enough with the system to give up and just get the phlebotomy done only to know the blood is going into a dumpster somewhere. Do everyone a favor and look into ways to turn people who need to give blood to stay alive into a viable source of blood donors.

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