Facing a blood shortage, American Red Cross issues emergency call for blood, platelet donors

The American Red Cross said Tuesday it is facing a blood shortage, and has issued an emergency call for eligible people of all blood types to give now in order to prevent delays in medical care.

The call comes after a difficult week for blood and platelet donations over the Fourth of July holiday, the Red Cross says. About 450 fewer blood drives were organized by businesses and other community groups last week than during a typical week, as people across the country celebrated the holiday with activities and travel. This led to about 17,000 fewer blood donations than needed for patients in a single week, the Red Cross says.

As a result, the Red Cross now has less than a three-day supply of most blood types available – and less than a two-day supply of type O blood – for patients.

The Red Cross says it would like to have at least a five-day supply.

“Medical emergencies and critical treatments don’t stop for holiday celebrations. Patients depend on lifesaving blood transfusions every day,” said Cliff Numark, senior vice president, Red Cross Blood Services. “Right now, the Red Cross only has less than a three-day supply when we need a five-day supply to be prepared for all situations that require blood products.

“To help meet this need, we’ve added about 8,000 additional appointments at blood donation centers and community blood drives over the next few weeks to accommodate more donors. But we need people to fill those appointments, please join us today.”

In June, the Red Cross launched the Missing Types campaign to encourage donors – especially new donors and those who have not donated in the past years – to give blood or platelets during the challenging summer months. Through the campaign, the letters A, B and O – letters that make up the main blood groups – disappeared from popular brands to symbolize what happens when blood goes missing from hospital shelves during blood shortages.

Despite an encouraging response to the campaign, the Red Cross says, blood donations still fell short of expectations in June, causing a significant draw down of its blood supply.

“Blood is only available when generous blood and platelet donors roll up a sleeve to give, and right now, all donors – especially those give have never given or haven’t given in a while – are urged to make an appointment to give today,” Numark added.

Donors of all blood types, especially type O, are urged to make an appointment to donate using the Blood Donor App, at RedCrossBlood.org or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). Donation appointments and completion of a RapidPass online health history questionnaire are encouraged to help reduce the time it takes to donate.

Those interested in hosting a blood drive can learn more and sign up to sponsor a drive this summer by visiting RedCrossBlood.org/HostADrive.

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