COVID-19 pandemic has compressed the healthcare system. Blood donation is an essential health service. Blood and blood components have a shelf life, which is why they can’t be stored for later hence fresh blood supply is necessary. Millions of lives are saved due to blood donations and blood transfusions. “Blood donation is even more essential during the Coronavirus pandemic, where people may be less inclined to donate blood,” says Dr Luo Dapeng, WHO Country Representative in Papua New Guinea. At this time of crisis, people need to show generosity and solidarity.
India was facing a severe shortage of blood in April 2020.
In times of need, India is facing a huge shortage of blood supplies. The social distancing norms and continuous spread of COVID-19 have led to the cancellation of blood donation campaigns. There is also a huge decrease in voluntary donations due to the fear and increase of COVID-19. In April 2020, the Indian Red Cross Society raised an alarm that voluntary donation had fallen by almost 100 per cent.
There is a drastic drop in donations, but the need for blood is constantly increasing. While the blood is being provided to those who urgently need blood and blood components like those with thalassemia and severe anaemia, instances of severe blood loss, road traffic accidents, antepartum and postpartum haemorrhage, and patients needing urgent surgeries.
This shortage of blood became a major issue for the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW). Taking in the grave situation, MoHFW and the National Blood Transfusion Council (NBTC) issued guidelines stating that blood donation can still be done safely by following certain guidelines and taking precautionary measures. These guidelines state that people are at no risk of getting affected by COVID-19 through blood transfusion or the blood donation procedure. The government of Maharashtra along with MoHFW have been working on protocols to encourage people for donating blood. But yet people fear donating blood.
It is important to donate blood during this difficult time, but it is more important to ensure the safety of these donation drives. Social distancing should be maintained. Physical distance, restrictions on social norms like hugging, handshakes, overcrowding should be taken care of. Donors should be called at the appointed time only to reduce overcrowding. For the collection of convalescent plasma, the guidelines stated, systems should be in place to enable re-entry of cured COVID-19 patients as donors for convalescent plasma for treatment of those affected by the novel coronavirus.
Blood donation centres should educate the staff on all the precautionary measures. There should be the safe disposal of used hand gloves, masks, caps, needles, and all the medical waste. General facilities like hand sanitiser dispensers, hand washes, running water should be made available to the donors. Sanitizing and cleaning of the used beds should be done to promote a healthy donation centre.
All the donors should follow universal precautions like social distancing, wearing masks and proper hand sanitization. Also, all the donors should maintain good respiratory hygiene. Before donation, all the donors should make sure to drink enough water, eat a healthy diet rich in iron and protein, to have enough rest. They should avoid smoking and consuming alcohol for the day.
Blood donation is the greatest act of kindness one can show. So, a huge thank you to all those who donated blood. For those who did not donate but are in good health to donate blood, it is never very late to do a good deed. This one good deed can help save at least one life because somewhere, someone needs blood. Help save a life by donating blood.