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Blood Supply Is Low In Texas, And So Are Donation Rates

Eric Timpson, center, and Thomas Nicolaysen, right, give blood at the American Red Cross Donation Center Monday, March 23, 2020, in Murray, Utah. The U.S. surgeon general on Thursday, March 19, 2020, urged healthy Americans, especially younger ones, to donate blood as supplies dwindle amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Eric Timpson, center, and Thomas Nicolaysen, right, give blood at the American Red Cross Donation Center Monday, March 23, 2020, in Murray, Utah. The U.S. surgeon general on Thursday, March 19, 2020, urged healthy Americans, especially younger ones, to donate blood as supplies dwindle amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Because COVID-19 vaccination rates have risen and access to the vaccine is more readily available, more people are opting in for elective medical procedures than they have in the past year.

But that means blood supply needed to assist in these procedures is low, according to Carter BloodCare, one of Texas’ largest blood centers.

“We’re just barely meeting the needs on a daily basis, once you start to see even a small decrease in donors coming out" said Veronica Moore, vice president of organizational relations at Carter BloodCare. "It's a significant impact on the hospitals and the patients they serve.”

Prior to the pandemic, centers like Carter BloodCare would rely on businesses, schools, religious centers and communities to host blood drives on a regular basis. When the pandemic abruptly shut these places down, blood donation drives also took a hit.

“Once the pandemic started, then all those businesses and opportunities where we normally host drives, they closed, and they closed very quickly,” Moore said. “And so, since then we’ve just had a challenge with you know, searching for different ways to really just get the community involved to remember, hey, there are patients out there.”

Blood donations are usually used in cancer treatment procedures, orthopedic surgeries, organ and marrow transplants, and treating blood disorders. The American Red Cross speculates about 36,000 units of red blood cells are needed every day in the United States.

While it's always been a challenge for blood centers to get folks to donate blood, this summer has been especially challenging.

“We normally see that we're able to overcome it. But this one, it just continues to persist. So we've never, I've never seen anything like this. There's other individuals in the blood industry that over 30 years, that’ve never seen the shortage persist for so long,” Moore said.

Blood donors can be as young as 16 years old if they have parental consent, and anyone over 17 does not need consent.

Got a tip? Email Haya Panjwani at hpanjwani@kera.org. Follow Haya on Twitter @hayapanjw.

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