Jan 18, 2022 - News

Blood donations at record low in Philadelphia region

A pattern of repeating blood droplets, but all are only outlined except for one.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

The Philly region, along with the rest of the country, is experiencing a blood shortage.

The big picture: The American Red Cross warned last week that the U.S. is facing a "dangerously low" blood supply.

  • The Red Cross has lost 332 units of blood since Jan. 1 due to cancellations and staff shortages.
  • For the 2021 fiscal year, ARC gathered about 120,000 units of blood, which is considerably less than pre-pandemic levels of about 215,000.

Zoom in: At any given moment, a quarter of the need in the Philadelphia region isn't being met, according to the regional Red Cross, which distributes to 130 hospitals in southeastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

  • Typically, blood donation centers want to have a five-day supply of blood. Most in the Philly region are operating on less than a half-day of supply.
  • In particular, the region needs type O blood and platelets.

Between the lines: Winter is usually a low season for blood donations. But this year, it's compounded by chronic staffing shortages and a lack of blood drives.

  • The regional Red Cross relies on schools and colleges for about 20% of its blood donations, and the events have been limited by the pandemic.

What they're saying: "It's at the point that doctors are making decisions on who gets blood and how much because there isn't enough," regional communications director Alana Mauger said.

  • Mauger warned residents that they'll have to book ahead if they choose to donate because there are fewer appointments due to the worker shortage.

Of note: The FDA still maintains restrictions on gay and bisexual men. They cannot donate if they’ve had sex with another man within three months.

  • Nearly two dozen U.S. senators have recently called for an end to the policy, saying it's "not scientifically sound."
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